If you live in the southern half of the United States, your energy bill likely goes up during the summer.
Whether you have the air conditioner going full blast or have three box fans strategically set up around the house and in the windows, you are pumping out extra electricity and watching as your electric bill jumps exponentially rather than just a couple of dollars.
If you want to keep your power bill from eating into your end-of-summer-vacation savings, here are some inexpensive tips to help you be more energy efficient:
Thermostat - When it comes to air conditioning, it’s all about the thermostat. How cold do you have to have it? Normally put it on 80? Try it at 82. Like to keep it around 75? Push that up to 78. Regularly want it a chilly 70? Push it up to 74 degrees.
Energy.gov says that setting your thermostat at 78 degrees rather than 72 degrees can save between 6 and 18 percent on your bill. The closer your indoor and outdoor temperatures, the less air conditioning it takes to cool your residence.
And when you aren’t home does the air conditioner really need to be running? If it is imperative for you to walk into a house with a cool breeze swirling, leave the thermometer at 85 degrees. It’ll still be cooler than outside, but won’t suck your pockets dry because it won’t keep the air conditioner running all day.
If you want to invest a little bit of money into a programmable thermostat, you can have your A/C turn on shortly before you get home, so you get the best of both worlds — don’t have to leave the A/C running on day and still get to have it cool when you walk through the door. An energy efficient programmable thermostat will end up paying for itself.
Windows - The majority of the heat entering your home will come directly from that glowing ball of fire in the sky shining through your windows. Keep your windows and blinds closed during the day and open at night. Especially if you live in a desert climate or near the beach, it can be really hot during the day and still be nice and cool at night.
Take advantage of natural ventilation and open the windows at night and get a cool breeze rather than letting the air conditioning run. If you aren’t using an air conditioner, you can use box fans in your windows. Point them outward during the day to suck hot air out of the house and face them inside at night to bring cool air into your home.
You can also provide your home with proper shading with your landscaping, but planting trees is a long-term correction.
Ceiling Fans - Speaking of fans, ceiling fans can be a great way to save some money. With a ceiling fan creating a wild chill effect that makes it feel 3-4 degrees cooler, you can turn your thermostat up. And ceiling fans only use the energy of a 100-watt lightbulb, so it’s a much more efficient cooling technique. But remember to turn the fan off when you leave a room, ceiling fans cool people through air movement rather than actually cooling the room.
Another ceiling fan you can take advantage of is the one in your bathroom. That fan isn’t just to clear bad smells. Turn the bathroom fan on after showering to dissipate the heat and humidity more quickly.
Appliances – Everyone knows appliances can use a ton of energy even when not in use but still plugged in, especially modern do-it-all products like the XBox. Ideally, you would unplug anything plugging into an electrical outlet when it’s not in use, but we both know you aren’t going to cram your face into the back of your computer desk or TV stand so you can plug and unplug all the living room electronics every time you watch a movie. (One solution is to plug all the TV related electronics into the same power strip so one button can turn them all off, but that’s a digression.)
On the other hand, common kitchen and bathroom appliances can be popped in and out of outlets quickly and easily when you need to use them. You don’t have that blender or curling iron plugged in at all times. You should also watch where appliances are placed. Large appliances, such as televisions or lamps, give off enough heat that they can affect the reading your air-conditioning thermostat gets if the appliance is close enough and cause the A/C to run for longer than needed.
On particularly hot days, try to refrain from running appliances that create heat. Instead of using the stove, microwave something to eat or break out the George Foreman.
Rather than using your dryer or the heated dry setting on your dishwasher during the day, wait until it’s later in the evening or air dry your stuff. Shower at the gym rather than when you get home. Even better, try not to use appliances from 2-8 p.m.
Also, use LRD or CFL light bulbs rather than iridescent. Iridescent light bulbs spend way more energy producing heat than light.