With summer officially arriving this week, you may have noticed your electric bills are rising almost as fast as the temperatures. At least during the wintertime, you can keep warm by putting on an extra hoodie or adding an extra blanket. In the summer, there is only so much clothing you can take off.
To keep your electricity bills down in the summertime as the heat goes up, here are some simple energy saving tips you can use to keep more money in your wallet.
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Change your air filter
Make sure your air conditioner is operating at peak efficiency. A dirty filter reduces the amount of air being drawn in by the fan, which makes your heating/cooling unit work harder to cool your house. A reduction in airflow can also lead to frozen coils. Not only that, a clean filter keeps dust and dirt from building up in your HVAC system, which can result in additional maintenance costs and early failure.
Manufacturers recommend checking your filters monthly and changing them when they are dirty. Most pleated 1 inch filters are rated to last three months versus one month for fiberglass filters.
When purchasing filters, a filter that advertises better filtering of airborne particles doesn’t always mean it is better. When choosing filters, you should also consider the MERV rating for your system. The Minimum Efficiency Reported Value ranges from 1-20. A filter with a higher rating means it can catch smaller particles, which sounds good in theory because hey, there’ll be less dust blowing out of your vents back at you. But a high MERV filter can also reduce airflow into your system, and therefore lowering efficiency.
You may be tempted to save money and get a 1 inch thick filter with a high MERV rating. This thinner filter will get dirty quickly. Instead, consider a thicker filter such as a 4 inch one if it will fit. It will have more surface area for more airflow and for catching dust, and thicker filters can last up to 12 months between changes.
If you are tired of buying filters, another option for saving money is to buy a reusable filter that you can rinse clean. You can come out ahead in savings in a little as a year and half.
Install a programmable thermostat
Are you tired of coming home from work to a hot house and having to wait for it to cool? A programmable thermostat can lower your energy bills by automatically turning down your A/C while you are at work or asleep and turning it back up before you wake or get home. Now the only thing you will accidentally leave on is your iron.
The Department of Energy estimates that by turning your thermostat up 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day while you are away can save you as much as 10% a year in heating and cooling costs. Yet fewer than 4% of households turn off their air during the workday when no one is home.
If you have an older analog thermostat, a newer digital thermostat allows you to set your temperatures more precisely. A more accurate thermostat will let you set the temperature in your home to the most comfortable setting for everyone.
For even more control, you can purchase a wifi thermostat such as the ever popular Nest Thermostat, which lets you change the temperature using your phone from anywhere with internet access. For even more savings, check with your power company before you buy to see if they offer any rebates for purchasing a smart thermostat.
Set the ideal temperature
Ever come home to find it way too warm so you set your thermostat to 70 degrees when you prefer it at 75 thinking it will cool it down faster? Contrary to what some people think, turning the temperature way down doesn’t make it cool any quicker. It will just make the air conditioner run longer before it turns off.
Everyone’s preferred room temperature setting will vary. To find the most comfortable temperature and the highest cost savings for your family, secretly raise the temperature a degree or two at a time until people complain. Then turn it back down to the last setting and keep it there.
You will save 3-5% on air conditioning costs for each degree that you raise the thermostat.
Keep the drapes closed during the day
In the summer, the more sun that comes through your windows means the harder your air conditioner has to work to cool your home. To keep heat out, you should close your drapes during the day.
According to the Department of Energy, studies have shown that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%.
As you’ve probably noticed, a dark-colored shirt absorbs more heat on a sunny day than a lighter color, which reflects the heat. The same idea applies for draperies. You’ll want the side facing the sun to be white to reflect the sunlight. The side facing the inside of your home can be darker to keep light out.
Use a ceiling fan
Installing a ceiling fan can help you feel cooler by creating a wind-chill effect. The air moving across your body makes you feel cooler. Studies have shown that people can raise their thermostats up to 4 degrees and not feel any difference with the use of a ceiling fan. This means lower electric bills.
The New York Times reports that the common three-ton central air conditioning unit uses 3 kilowatts of power and can cost 36 cents per hour of operation. A typical ceiling fan uses about 30 watts at medium speeds and can spin for three hours before costing you a single penny.
A basic 42” ceiling fan without the light fixture can cost as low as $60. For those who prefer having lights, a Hunter 42” ceiling fan can be found for under $90 on Amazon. Professional installation average about $100-250.
Keep in mind that in the summer, the ceiling fan should spin counterclockwise. To save money in the wintertime, you can change the direction of rotation to clockwise to push warmer air downwards from the ceiling.
If you are in an apartment and aren’t able to install your own ceiling fan, a basic oscillating fan can be a worthy substitute. A Lasko pedestal fan with remote control is under $40 and you can move it from room to room or to your next apartment.
Take advantage of off-peak hours
Check with your power company to see if they charge lower rates during certain times of the day or on the weekends. You may be able to pay less for your electricity by scheduling certain activities during off-peak hours.
Many dishwashers have timers, so you can load your dishwasher after dinner, and then set it to run it later at night or even while you sleep.
Do the same with your laundry and the charging of your electric car.
If you have an electric water heater, you can take shorter or cooler showers or take showers later at night.
Our power company’s peak period is from 3-8 PM on weekdays during the summer. We can take advantage of having a programmable thermostat by pre-cooling the house before peak times and waiting until after 8 PM to turn back on the air conditioning.
Consider doing meal prep Sundays and cook for the entire week on the weekends to use the stove less during peak time.
Install window film
Reduce the amount of sun and heat that comes in through your windows by applying sun blocking window film to your windows. Think of it like window tint for your house instead of your car. One reviewer used a thermometer and found that the film reduced the temperature on their carpet by more than 15 degrees.
Not only will the easy-to-apply DIY plastic film reflect sunlight, it will also block UV rays to prevent your furnishings from fading.
Avoid using the oven
We all have to eat, but heating up a big metal box to 400 degrees generates a lot of extra heat that takes a while to dissipate. Luckily the summer time is the perfect time of the year to fire up the grill outside.
The microwave is also a lot more efficient for heating up food without the additional radiating heat.
If you need to use an oven, see if a smaller toaster oven will be enough. You could even consider placing it outside.
Check weather strips
Energy savings and money may be leaking out through your doors because of worn weather strips. Check the weather strips on the top, bottom, and sides of your doors and replace if necessary.
Be more efficient with the fridge
Your refrigerator is already working harder during the hot days of summer. Wait for hot items to cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge.
Keep the fridge doors close as often as possible by planning ahead and pulling out or putting back several items at once. Unfortunately, leaving the refrigerator doors open and letting all the cold air out won’t make your kitchen cooler.
While you are at it, this might be a good time to use a vacuum with a brush attachment to clean the condenser coils on the back of the refrigerator so that it can run the most efficiently.
Dry your clothes in the sun
Skip the dryer and use the solar power from the sun to dry your laundry for free by hanging them outside on a clothes line.
Plant a tree
This is more of a long term plan for reducing your cooling costs since it will take a few years for a tree to grow tall enough to block the sun from streaming into your windows, onto your roof, and side of your house.
An ideally placed tree can reduce your utility costs as much as 30 to 35 percent. A tree providing shade over your air conditioning unit will also help it run cooler and more efficiently.
Arbor Day Foundation recommends that trees be placed on the west side of your property and closer to the northwest to block the hot afternoon sun. Deciduous trees are preferred since they will lose their leaves in the winter, when you’ll want the sun to help warm your home.
When choosing the location to plant a tree, be sure you don’t place it too close to the house, driveways, sidewalks, or water and sewage lines to prevent damage from roots.
Do you have any good tips to reduce your electricity costs during the summer?