It's summer time in Texas and that means one thing.....it's HOT! I thought a post about the top 10 ways to lower your utility rates. When doing research it made me realize a couple things that I can be doing as well.
Set Your Air Conditioner For 78 Degrees or Higher
If you are someone who loves the house at 70 degrees, you may want to rethink that idea during the summer months. Since an air conditioner cools at the same rate no matter the setting, think about how much more energy you’re using to cool it down to 70 degrees especially when it is reaching the upper 90’s outside. With that being said, the “industry recommended” minimum temperature is 78 degrees during the summer months. By sticking to these guidelines, you’ll stay cool (enough) and will help maximize your energy savings.
According to the Energystar.gov website, you can save about $180 annually by using a programmable thermostat (Note: this figure only applies if using the thermostat correctly). Programming temperature changes throughout the day will allow you to maximize the usage of an air conditioner to coincide with the outside conditions (night vs. day). It will also help you by automatically adjusting the temperature up when you are away at work or school (no sense in cooling an empty house for 8+ hours a day). If you are forgetful like me, this tool is an easy way to automate your savings. Just don’t forget to change the programming for each season!
Air Conditioner Maintenance/Filters
Proper maintenance of your air conditioning can ensure that your system will operate at its optimal efficiency level. The more efficiently it runs the less energy/money you waste. The best time to maintain your system is in the winter or spring, before the heavy usage of the summer. You might even get a better deal this time of year since the a/c repair guys aren’t as busy. Proper maintenance can also prevent many small problems from becoming big, expensive ones later. In addition, change your air filters monthly. A dirty air filter can cost you money because it blocks the air flow, causing your unit to work harder to push cool air through your home. A clean air filter will save you money on energy costs and prolong the life of your air conditioner.
With your a/c working overtime to cool the house down just from the heat outside, why add even more heat in the kitchen? There are two easy suggestions. First, use a crockpot or toaster oven instead of the oven or stove. They use less energy and they don’t pump as much heat into the kitchen. Second, since it’s a little cooler in the evenings get outside and grill. In addition to energy savings, grilling is also a healthier and quicker way to eat – it’s a win-win!
Fans are an efficient way to make a room comfortable without having to lower the temperature. The air circulation they provide evaporates moisture on your skin, causing you to feel cooler. The combination of fan use and prudent management of your a/c settings will result in overall energy savings. If you do not have ceiling fans, they can be easily installed in any room with an overhead light. You can pick them out at your local Home Depot or Lowes for less than $100 (or more if you want a fancy one).
One way to cool your house is by not letting the heat in. Shades and/or blinds provide a great barrier to the outside heat, and not require any electricity usage. If you currently have shades in your home then during the day, remember to keep them closed, especially when the sun is beating down in the afternoon. If you do not have shades or blinds in your home, they can get pretty expensive, so at least try to cover the windows that get the most sun exposure. Another option is solar screens, which block out 90% of the UV rays while still allowing you to see out your windows.
Another way to save on energy costs is to create shade around your home by planting trees or shrubs. It is best to plant them near windows and on the sunnier side of your home. Just be sure to plant them at least one foot away from your home’s wall and from any full grown plants. In addition to planting them around your home, you can also save money by planting them around your air conditioning units. A shaded unit can actually improve its efficiency by as much as 10% compared to a unit in direct sun. Just be sure not to plant too close to where they can block the unit’s airflow.
Seal Up Your Home
Your home could be losing electricity through air leaks in doors or windows and through bad insulation. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 30% of energy usage through proper insulation and air sealing. That could be a nice savings off your bill, especially during the hot summer months! In order to see if your home is losing electricity, you should conduct a home energy audit. This is something you can do yourself or you can hire someone to do this for you. If you choose to do the audit yourself, then you may want to check out Do It Yourself Home Energy Assessments. There is information that can help guide you through your own energy assessment.
Change Laundry Habits
First, wash clothes in cold water. It will save on the energy required to create more hot water. Another idea is to dry your clothes at night. When drying your clothes during the day, the dryer exhaust heats up the house, which in turn causes your air-conditioner to run more. By operating your dryer at night, the house won’t heat up as much and you save on your cooling bill.
Switch to a Lower Electric Rate
The easiest way to lower your electric bill is by switching to a lower electric rates. Since the Texas electricity market has become deregulated, many companies are able to offer competitive pricing for consumers. When you’re shopping for a lower electric rate, decide if you want to power your home with a fixed or month-to-month energy plan. A fixed plan will enable customers to lock down a low rate for a fixed term while a month-to-month plan gives customers the ability to take advantage of energy rates as they drop.