Episode 276: July 17, 2012
by Laura Adams
Did you know that your heating and air-conditioning system sucks up most of the energy that you pay for?
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No matter if you own or rent your home, here are 10 ways to cut your energy bills and save money during the summer:
Tip #1: Install More Plants
One of the best ways to stay cool is to block heat from getting into your home in the first place. Installing more leafy plants and trees around your home is a great way to improve its curb appeal and help reduce the amount of sun shining on your roof, windows, and outdoor air conditioning unit.
Tip #2: Cover Your Windows
To keep heat from coming into your home, close your window blinds or curtains—especially during the hottest part of the day. You can also install outdoor awnings, solar screens, or window film on the outside of your windows to intercept or reflect solar energy.
If you need new windows, consider upgrading to high-performance products that have special coatings. They can filter out up to 70% of the heat while allowing the full amount of visible light to come through.
Tip #3: Adjust the Thermostat
When it’s warm, every degree you choose to raise the thermostat above 78 can reduce your cooling costs by as much as 10%. So keep your home at the highest comfortable temperature possible and turn it up a few degrees before you leave for work or go out of town.
If you have trouble remembering to adjust your thermostat, you can install a programmable thermostat that automatically changes the temperature at preset times. They cost as little as $25 and are estimated to save the average consumer about $180 a year.
Tip #4: Select Your Fan Speed
If you live in a humid part of the country, one way to dramatically reduce the humidity in your home is to reduce the internal fan speed on your air conditioning system.
Slowing down the movement of air through the machine allows it to remove more moisture, which makes you feel much cooler. If you live in a dry area, it’s better to keep the fan speed high.
If you can’t adjust your fan speed from the thermostat, call a service professional to see what speed your air conditioning unit is currently on and change it for you, if needed.
Tip #5: Use Permanent Air Filters
Maintaining your air conditioning system is critical for keeping it running well. Dirty air filters restrict air flow and cause the system to become inefficient, use more electricity, and cost you more money.
So change disposable filters at least once a month—or switch to a permanent air filter that you clean instead of throw away. A reusable filter is more expensive, but will save you money in the long run by cutting your energy bills and prolonging the life of your air conditioner.
When it’s warm, every degree you choose to raise the thermostat above 78 can reduce your cooling costs by as much as 10%.
Tip #6: Use Fans
Portable fans or ceiling fans are inexpensive and allow you to raise your thermostat several degrees and feel just as comfortable in the summer. Just remember that fans cool people, not air—so be sure to turn them off when you leave the room.
There’s a switch on most ceiling fans that reverses the direction of the blades. Make sure they’re turning counter-clockwise at medium or high speed during the summer so air is pushed down to cool you off. During the winter you can run ceiling fans clockwise at low speed to gently circulate warm air that rises.
Quick and Dirty Tip: To prevent your air conditioner from working overtime, keep your interior doors and air vents open so air can circulate freely throughout your home.
Tip #7: Use a Microwave
Cook with a microwave oven when you can during warm weather. They’re inexpensive and use up to 30% less energy than a traditional oven. Plus, they don’t generate heat in the kitchen.
Tip #8: Upgrade Your System
If you need a major repair on an older air conditioning system, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient unit. They are more expensive, but can cut your energy costs in half.
The best systems have a SEER rating, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, of 14 or higher.
Installing energy-saving products can also qualify you for a credit on your utility bill. So do some research on your energy company’s web site for recommended products and savings opportunities.
Also, check the online Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for financial incentives from the federal, state, and local governments when you replace appliances with more energy-efficiency models.
Tip #9: Seal Leaks
If you have lots of cracks around windows and doors, that can be as wasteful as leaving a window wide open all year long! Use inexpensive caulk or expanding foam to seal cracks that are draining your money.
Most energy companies offer a free program to help determine whether you have leaky air ducts and other inefficiencies in your home. Make an appointment for an energy home inspection—you might be surprised by how much they can help you save!
Tip #10: Sign Up for Energy Programs
Visit your power company’s web site to find out if they offer an energy management program. You may be eligible to enroll some or all of your appliances in a system that temporarily powers them down during occasional periods of high energy demand.
The power company installs a small switch on equipment that you enroll in the program, like your water heater, pool pump, or central air conditioner. If you’re willing to give them control over this equipment during limited times, you’ll receive a nice rebate. This is a great option for people who are away from home during a large part of the day.
Try these tips to stay cool and battle rising energy costs during the summer. If you have more money-saving energy tips, be sure to share them on the Money Girl Facebook page.
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