13 Cool Tips for Lower Energy Bills

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Don't spend a fortune keeping cool this summer when you don't have to. Here are a few tips to put a chill in your summer energy bill.

With much of the country in the grips of a searing heat wave, time for a quick review of cool ways to save energy.

Start by watching the following short news story, then meet me on the other side for more:

More tips for energy savings:

  1. Home Energy Saver: This cool web-based tool comes courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. You input things about your specific house, it tells you exactly what improvements to make and provides estimates of how much you’ll save if you make them. Definitely worth checking out.
  2. Shades, Curtains, Trees: Keeping direct sunlight out of your house will keep temperatures down. Plant trees for shade, or use curtains or shades in the summer, especially on west and south-facing windows. If you plant trees, make sure they’re not evergreen: you want the leaves to fall off in the winter to help with heating.
  3. Filters: Check and change (if they’re disposable) or clean (if they’re permanent) your A/C filters at least once a month. Also periodically clean the coils on both the outside and inside A/C units as well. These steps are simple, can reduce your power bill by 10%, and will prevent the number one cause of service calls. And while you’re cleaning coils, might as well pull the refrigerator out and vacuum those coils too.
  4. Air loss: In both winter and summer, the trick is to keep the inside air inside and the outside air outside. Use the flame from a candle to find air leaks around windows and doors: then fix the leaks with either caulk, weather-stripping or both. As with filters: cheap, easy and effective.
  5. Insulation: Proper insulation can save you 30 percent on cooling costs. If you can get into your attic, that’s where to start adding. And while you’re up there, make sure your air ducts are sealed and insulated as well. For more information, check out the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association’s website.
  6. Ceiling fans: A fan will allow you to set you set your thermostat at 78 degrees and make it feel like 72 degrees. They’re cheap at the local home improvement warehouse, and can be easily installed by those with moderate skills. Energy Star-certified ceiling fans do even better, moving air up to 20 percent more efficiently than conventional models. And if you get a light kit, get one with compact fluorescent light bulbs: they produce 70 percent less heat. Note: Ceiling fans make the air feel cooler on your skin, but they don’t actually lower the temperature. Which means that if you’re not in the room, it’s not doing anything. Turn it off.
  7. Experiment with your thermostat: Try raising your settings a degree or two and see if you notice. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, check them out, especially if you’re the type to forget to dial up the temp when you leave for work. And when you’re home…
  8. Dress for the season: Lounging around in shorts during the winter and jeans in the summer is expensive. Wear extra clothes in the winter; wear as little as possible in the summer. (Don’t look good partially dressed? Dim the lights and drop your power bill even more.) This is also true of your bedclothes: I’ve known people who keep their house freezing while they sleep just to stay comfortable under a heavy bedspread. Better idea: comforter in winter, light bedspread in summer.
  9. A/C ducts: Do you close the vents in rooms that you’re not using? Well, don’t. Closing more than ten percent of your vents can create an air pressure imbalance that will reduce your air conditioner’s efficiency. So if you’ve got central air, let it flow.
  10. Light bulbs: Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you already know that compact fluorescent by bulbs use less electricity and last much longer than conventional ones. They also produce a lot less heat. And now you can get them in virtually any color temperature and configuration: if you haven’t seen them lately, look again. Read more about it at the Energy Star website.
  11. Cold water wash: According to the Alliance to Save Energy, using only cold water in your clothes washer can save up to $63 a year and can be just as effective as hot water. Try it and see.
  12. When it’s hottest, be cool: When it’s the hottest part of the summer day, don’t run appliances that create heat. The hot part of the day is the time iced tea and TV.
  13. Turn it off: According to the EPA, TVs that aren’t even turned on cost the average American household $5 a year. Plug your TVs, cable boxes, DVDs, video games, etc into a power strip and use the power strip as an on/off switch.

Stacy Johnson

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