A typical household in the United States spends anywhere from $2,000-$4,400 on utilities annually. Energy costs have been climbing steadily. The rising costs of natural gas, electricity, and fuel oil have been seen in our monthly utility bills and reflected at the pump. There are several low-cost improvements, routine maintenance, and cost-free daily best practices the savvy homeowner can employ to lower their energy bill this summer, by as much as 25 percent!
Change your light bulbs: You can save up to $150 a year by changing out the lightbulbs in the ten most used light fixtures in your home with Energy Star certified LED light bulbs. Energy Star light bulbs last 15 times longer and use up to 90% less energy than standard bulbs. They also produce 70-90% less heat, which can cut energy costs in the summer associated with your cooling system.
Schedule your electricity usage: You will be charged more for the electricity you use during peak hours. Scheduling your laundry and dishwashing early in the morning or late at night is a great way to lower your electric bill in the summer. The typical on-peak hours for electric usage in the summer are 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm (when air conditioners are working the hardest). Check with your local electricity provider to determine the on-peak hours in your home, and adjust your usage accordingly.
Use ceiling fans to your advantage: Ceiling fans have rotational settings that should be adjusted according to the time of the year. In the summertime, they should be set to turn counterclockwise to create a downdraft, which provides a direct cooling breeze. In the wintertime, they should be set to turn clockwise to create an updraft, which circulates warm air around the room. When used in combination with your air-conditioning system, ceiling fans create a “wind chill effect” as described by engineers at Hunter. This cooling effect will allow you to adjust your thermostat to a warmer setting and can potentially save you 40% on your home cooling electricity costs.
Close the curtains: Your windows will usher in the heat. Close your curtains, or window treatments, during the day to relieve some of the burdens from your home cooling system. Consider a minor upgrade by hanging insulated curtains for even better results.
Insulate: Check and adjust the seals on your windows and doors. You want to keep that cool air inside your home (you are paying for it). Install new door sweeps on doors, and weather strips on doors and windows, and re-caulk windows to keep cool, calm, and collect your monthly electric bill savings.
Thermostat: A programmable thermostat is an inexpensive and practical upgrade to make in any home. By using a programmable thermostat to keep your home slightly warmer when you are away, and cooling down your home before your return, you will see significant savings on your summer electric bill. Be mindful not to place any heat generating items near your thermostat, as this can trick your thermostat and keep your cooling system running longer than need be. Set your thermostat to a temperature you are comfortable at, and then step it up one degree. For each degree above 75ºF, you can save as much as 15% in energy usage.
Filter replacement: Cleaning and replacing the filters on your household systems should be on your routine maintenance checklist. A clogged air filter can increase usage in your cooling system significantly, by as much as 15%.
Appliances: Upgrading your cooling system to an Energy Star rated system can yield significant savings. SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) and EER (energy efficiency ratio) models are 15% more efficient than outdated systems. Consider replacing all of your appliances with Energy Star models. If you are planning to sell your home this summer, leave the Energy Star labels on the appliances (when appropriate), it will call attention to the energy saving efforts you have made in your home.
Eat out: Treat your family to weekly meals at your favorite local restaurants. It will keep your kitchen cool (an oven can easily raise kitchen temperature by 10ºF). You will save on electricity, keep the kitchen cool, and keep the local economy flowing.
Garden: Plants provide shade. You can help to keep your home in the shade by strategically planting trees and shrubs. Plant them on the south and west sides of your home. You will increase the efficiency of your home cooling system by up to 10%. You will also be adding to the curbside appeal of your home in the process, so choose your plants wisely (and be mindful of your landscape design).