When talking about energy consumption throughout the year, winter undeniably gets the worst rap; longer nights, colder temperatures and the urge to stay indoors all lead to an elevated energy bill. However, when considering your energy saving practices, you shouldn’t only focus your efforts on November through March.
It’s important to make an effort year round, and summer is the perfect time to cut energy usage way down – whether you’re staying home or going away. Given the average home spends $115 per month, these five tips could cut your costs by almost 40% over the summer, not bad for a holiday saving.
Almost half your energy bill goes toward heating and cooling, so changes here are most important, especially if you’re planning a staycation. To start with, ensure your home is well insulated and protected from the heat outdoors; simple things like keeping curtains and windows closed during the day, and putting draft stoppers on your external doors can bring the internal household temperature down.
If you don’t live in a humid area, an alternative cooling system like ceiling fans could be all you need to direct cool breezes and stay fresh this summer. Coming in at 1 cents for every 3 hours of use compared with a central cooling system’s approximate 36 cents per hour, fans are definitely the most cost effective option saving.
However, if you are like the 87% of Americans who use an A/C and cannot go without it, you can make adjustments to save, too. Setting you’re a/C at 78°F instead of 72°F can cut your cooling bill by 6-18 percent – up to a $20 saving per month. Move heat generating items such as TVs or computers away from your thermostat to avoid them giving the sensor a false reading of high ambient heat. If you have some cash to invest, an energy efficient A/C system can be 10-15% more efficient, further increasing your savings long term.
Water heating in your home comes second only to cooling systems when looking at energy expenditure, and it accounts for up to 18% of your monthly bill. The CPSC has recommended turning your water heater temperature down from 140°F to 120°F, which can save up to 20 percent on energy usage.
You can also adjust an appliance’s individual water temperature usage to enjoy further savings. Advances in technology mean modern washing machines don’t require hot water to ensure a clean wash, with far more of the focus put on the detergents used to ensure your laundry comes out clean and fresh. Dishwashers can be set to eco mode, which often uses less hot water and less energy overall as well.
Read an appliance’s user manual to ensure you’ve chosen the best setting for saving. Combined, these changes can save you $8-10/month, and next time an appliance needs replacing, consider an Energy Star-rated item and your savings could double.
Sounds scary? Well it should, the term energy vampire is used to describe household appliances like toasters, microwaves, computers and even phone chargers that suck energy even when they’re not in use. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, vampire drains account for up to 10% of your energy bill, that could mean a $10 saving.
When you head out on vacation, be sure to unplug all appliances and items that could draw energy, even if they are in sleep mode, this will also save them from power surges while you’re away. An advanced power strip could make your life easier by centralizing plugs, allowing you to turn off a whole group of appliances with one switch.
Summer brings longer days and less darkness to illuminate. But when 5-10% of your energy bill goes to lighting alone, it makes sense to become energy wise with your bulbs as well. Traditional incandescent bulbs wasted up to 90% of the power used via heat loss. But today, thanks to initiatives such as the New Lighting Standards, energy efficient bulbs use 25-85% less power than traditional bulbs.
Changing all of your bulbs to energy efficient options such as Energy Star LEDs, CFLs or halogen incandescents,(which last longer than traditional bulbs and can pay for themselves within nine months) can save you $5 a month or more. If you really want to cut costs, install dimmers and motion detectors or timers to ensure your lights are always switched off when you aren’t in the room.
Ask your energy provider what its energy saving hours are – you’ll pay less for using appliances during those times. Alternatively, look at the option of creating your own energy, tax credits and incentives can help with the initial outlay and savings can be substantial. One hour of noontime summer sun is equal to the annual U.S. electricity demand.
Finally, if you’re not home, you aren’t using appliances and energy. Take advantage of the beautiful summer weather. Swap a night in, watching TV, for a cookout outside with solar lights and the cool breeze. Take the kids to the zoo or a museum for the day and you can cut out energy used for lighting, cooling and TV games or other indoor entertainment.
Most importantly, be more aware of your household energy consumption by getting an energy assessment by a professional or work it out yourself, and you’ll know where to cut down to save the most.
Cristina Miguelez is the Content Manager at Fixr.com, a website that connects consumers with service professionals in their area and estimates the cost for remodeling projects. She writes about home improvement tips and tricks to help homeowners make better remodeling decisions.