7 Tips to Cut Cooling Costs This Summer

July 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

Oh, no! Not another heat wave. Staying cool all summer long is not an easy — or cheap — task. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly half of the average home’s energy bill during the summer goes to cooling the home. As we enter the heart of air-conditioning season, the EPA offers the following simple tips for reducing your cooling bill this summer.

1. Change to more efficient light bulbs. EnergyStar-qualified lighting not only uses less energy, but also produces approximately 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting. You know how hot incandescents are to touch, and that heat causes one little bulb to become a 60-watt space heater.

2. Find the best thermostat settings. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it a few degrees higher (to about 78 degrees) when no one is home. Don’t have one? Install a programmable thermostat yourself. Newer thermostats allow you to set numerous timers to adjust temperatures throughout the day. An extra high-tech, home-automation bonus: Your new thermostat may even have a cell phone app for that.

3. Use ceiling fans optimally. Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only 2 degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room make sure to turn off the fan. No working A/C and need a quick, fan-based cool down? While not the most energy efficient (this method uses ice which requires energy to freeze), this easy DIY project will get the job done in a pinch.

4. Maximize shade. Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun’s rays from overheating the interior. Here’s a thermal shade you can make yourself. If you can, move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade. Have some big picture windows? You can even grow palms as houseplants for big coverage!

5. Reduce oven time (or don’t use it at all). Use a microwave or toaster oven instead of an oven to cook, when you can. Ovens take longer to cook food and can make your house warmer — a boon in the winter when you can prop open the oven door after use to heat the kitchen, but not at all helpful in the summer. However, there is an even better way to electricity-free summertime cuisine: Cook with direct sunlight! This do-it-yourself solar cooker uses materials you probably already have on hand.

6. Check air conditioner filters. Check your cooling system’s air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it. A good rule is to change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow airflow and make the system work harder to keep you cool, wasting energy. Also, remember to have your system serviced annually. This is especially true for AC systems older than 5 years.

7. Plug duct system leaks. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost to leaks and poor connections. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Knowing your caulking options will help. Also, make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls and ceilings. You may even qualify for rebates to seal those ducts.

All facts and figures come from the EPA’s EnergyStar website. Learn to heat and cool your home efficiently on EnergyStar’s “At Home” pages.

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