If you’re serious about putting a dent in your energy bills this summer, broaden your scope. Look for low-hanging fruit like adjusting your thermostat, but also consider less obvious options, like buying energy-efficient appliances. Home appliances are significant energy users, and newer Energy Star models can cut your yearly usage by 10% to 50%. While efficient refrigerators and dishwashers pay for themselves over time with energy savings, they’re a big upfront investment. If you don’t have the savings, don’t worry; there are cheaper ways to reduce energy usage. Follow these energy saving tips this summer to keep your head cool and your wallet fat. Then use your savings to invest in newer appliances in the fall.
One way to cut energy use is to invest in smart home devices that can save you energy like a programmable thermostat. Smart thermostats automate changes in temperature settings while giving you more control over your energy use. In the summertime, program your thermostat to adjust to the time of day (e.g., higher at night, lower at noon) instead of staying at one setting. Or use a mobile app to adjust temps while you’re at work or shopping. Smart thermostats can even track your location and detect when you’re almost home. You’ll arrive at a house that’s already cooled rather than sweat it out for thirty minutes. Also, consider investing in other smart home devices like bulbs and plugs. These gadgets let you control and program your lights and appliances in a similar way.
Manage Humidity Levels
The humidity levels in your home affect the efficiency of your air conditioning unit. As part of the cooling process, your HVAC unit removes excess moisture from the air. That’s because it takes less energy to cool dry air than it does moist air. A home with relative humidity levels between 30% to 45% is a breeze to cool. But when humidity levels are high, your cooling system will chug along, wasting energy in the process. Plus, moist air in summer makes your home feel stuffy and uncomfortable. Condensation on windows also becomes a problem. Use a standalone dehumidifier or have one installed for your entire HVAC system.
Turn Down Your Water Heater Thermostat
An electric water heater makes up about 18% of your total energy bill. So, there are opportunities for big savings by cranking the thermostat down even a few degrees. Adjust your water heater setting to around 120 F°(50 C°) and keep utility room doors and garage doors closed to your living area. That will block the heat from your water heater from entering the house and raising temperatures. Plus, it keeps the water heater warm. And cut down on your hot water, too. Take lukewarm showers, install low-flow showerheads, and wash your clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot.
Take the Heat Outside
Save energy by doing heat-producing housework like cooking and laundry outdoors. It’s summer, so fire up the barbeque grill for evening meals. Leave the stovetop or oven off, and you won’t overheat the entire house for one meal. Dry clothes outside on a clothesline or drying rack instead of in your clothes dryer. Buy cold brew tea and microwavable meals. Shut out the sun’s rays with blinds or thick window coverings. Keep extraneous interior lights and electronics turned off by putting them on a timer. And replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs) because they use less energy and produce less heat.
Shade Your Home
Don’t just keep your windows covered from the inside. Protect your home’s exterior, too. Shade trees and shrubs around windows are effective at blocking sunshine from heating your home’s exterior. But trees and shrubs take several seasons to hit maximum coverage, so plant them now. And if you do plant trees, make sure they’re of the deciduous variety, so that they will shed their leaves in the winter when you do need the sun’s warmth. In the meantime, use shade alternatives like awnings and overhangs. But don’t worry about covering every window of your home. Instead, focus on the south-facing ones that catch the most sun during the day.
Check Your Attic
When trying to reduce your energy bills, your ceiling is the main line of defense. Heat rises, and your attic catches most of it. The cooler your attic, the cooler your living space. Circulating fans and attic vents push accumulated hot air outside. So, check to make sure fans are working and that no debris, leaves, or bird nests are obstructing airflow or vent function. Then consider re-insulating your attic floor with an extra layer of high R-value fiberglass batting or blown-in cellulose insulation. The better barrier you build between your living space and your attic, the cooler your house will stay.
These summer cooling tips work and are cost-effective. But don’t overlook other ways to save money on utilities. Many local governments and utility companies offer rebates and incentives to customers who upgrade their cooling systems, add insulation, or conduct an energy audit. Find out what energy incentives your state offers.