The cost of keeping cool shouldn’t make you sweat, but when you’re adding 17 percent to your energy bill by using the AC, you may feel the heat. By making a few changes around the house, you can cut your bills and make your home more energy efficient. So as the summer warms up, prepare to save with these simple tips.
Energy Efficient Home Improvements
Switch to CFL or LED Light bulbs
According the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), CFL and LED light bulbs use 75 percent less energy than regular light bulbs. Sort of a bright idea, right? Yes, but beware that these new bulbs come with new terminology. The strengths of CFL and LED lights are measured by “lumens” instead of watts. So it stands to reason, the fewer lumens, the dimmer the bulb. The DOE suggests you replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb with an energy-efficient type that sets off 1600 lumens. For example, a 75-watt CFL or LED bulb has 1100 lumens and a 60-watt bulb only has 800 lumens.
If you have an attic or a crawl space, insulate that first, says Tracy Barr in Living Well in a Down Economy for Dummies. Since this is where the most air escapes, tackle it first and then move on to other sections of the house.
“When time and money allow, add insulation to your basement, exterior walls, floors and crawl spaces, in that order,” she says.
Of the many different types of insulation to choose from, it is best to install an energy-efficient fiberglass or cellulose insulation. According to CNN Money, it will likely cost $600-$1,500, but it could reduce your energy bill as much as 20 percent a year.
The Daily Green Staff suggests blocking solar rays by installing awnings, which can help save money on energy bills.
“By blocking incoming solar rays, they decrease cooling loads, which are among the biggest expenses for building,” says The Daily Green Staff in Install Awnings for Natural Air Conditioning.
According to an American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers study, a fabric window awning can reduce solar heat by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and up to 77 percent on west-facing windows. Awnings typically last five to seven years, and the lightly colored ones are the most effective at reflecting sun.
Improve Air Conditioning Efficiency
Replace air filters
Clean air conditioner filters can save you 5 to 15 percent on your energy bill, according to the DOE. That’s because clogged, dirty filters block normal air flow and even cause air to carry dirt onto the system’s coil, further dragging down the air conditioner’s efficiency. It’s a good rule of thumb to change or clean your filter every one to two months when in use.
Plug and fix holes and gaps in windows, doors and HVAC ducts
At the start of every season, take a good look around your window air conditioning unit or the ducts that lead from a central AC unit into your house. Moisture throughout the year can warp and shrink the fixtures. Fix the gaps around a window unit with weatherstripping. For central air units, apply mastic tape to every gap you can. Don’t use Duct Tape since it will fall off.
Fix malfunctioning pieces of the HVAC system
Just like a car, central AC units need regular tune-ups. Hire an HVAC pro to come clean and examine your system once a year. CNN Money estimates it will run you about $100-$150.
Energy Saving Tips
Set up fans
Box fans on windowsills are still one of the cheapest ways to keep cool. They use a fraction of the energy that air conditioners do, so set them up in your home to create a wind tunnel. Place one fan (blowing inward) in the window that brings in the most wind and another fan (blowing outward) in the opposite window. Cross breezes are a subtle saver.
According to the DOE, studies have shown that closing shades and blinds before the sun hits your house in the morning and keeping them closed until the sun sets can actually reduce heat by 33 percent. The DOE also advises that vertical or horizontal slat-type blinds are better for reducing summer heat than keeping in winter warmth.
Stop using the oven
Everybody’s doing it. Google “no-oven recipes” and everyone from Martha Stewart to Walt Disney has a page sharing their favorite summer no-oven recipes. Why should you forgo the oven? Because the oven releases immense heat into the home every time you open the door. Instead of using the oven, use your outdoor grill. This will keep the cooking heat out of your house and your family on the patio during the cooler evenings.
Keeping your home cool in the summer isn’t all about the AC. It’s about making small adjustments here and there. Keep your cool this summer by using some or all of the above tips.