As the temperature rises, so do energy bills. Here are some simple tips that will help you limit your energy costs this summer.
DIY Energy Audits: No need to hire an expert for this one. Visit the Department of Energy’s Web site and do a critical walk-through of the energy demons in your home.
Once you’ve completed your energy audit, follow these additional tips to save the maximum amount of money on your energy bills, so you have more money in your pocket for summertime trips to the lake or the ice-cream store.
Thermostats: First off, if you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, get one. Then set it to 78 degrees, or higher if you can stand it. Whenever you’re away for more than eight hours, raise the setting even higher. Figure you’ll save 1% for every one degree you raise the temperature.
Now that it’s warmer out, do you really need to take a hot shower in the morning? Lower the thermostat temperature on your water heater and watch your energy bill take a dunk.
Appliances: Hold off on using your big appliances (dishwasher, washing machines, etc) until the late evening. I load my dishwasher right before bed and run it while the family is asleep. Nothing like waking up to nice clean dishes!
Wash your dishes and clothes in cold/cool water whenever possible – there are now fabric detergents specially formulated for cold-water use. Used in conjunction, these two tips help keep your house from heating up, which lessens your need to run the air conditioner at full blast.
Also, buy a couple of bags of clothespins and hang your laundry outside – it makes your bath towels more absorbent and saves a bundle of money by not using your clothes dryer. If you’re worried about the sun fading your clothes, hang the clothes inside-out.
Unplug everything that isn’t in use. If you can’t live without the clock on your DVD player, buy a travel clock that uses a small battery. If you DVR/Tivo is set to record shows during the day or evening when you’re not at home or asleep, put that device on a separate power strip and unplug the one that gives power to your TV/stereo/DVD player/everything else.
Fans and ACs: If you need to buy an air conditioner, look for one with an Energy Star rating. This can give you a rebate at the end of the year, not to mention the fact that lower energy use equals lower energy bills. If possible, install your AC on the shadier side of your home. Be sure to keep the filters clean – check them at least once a month to ensure that your systems run as efficiently as possible.
If you don’t have an attic fan installed, it’s worth the money – attics typically trap heat, which makes the rest of your home warmer than necessary. If you rent, or don’t want to have a professional install an attic fan, buy a couple of round industrial shop fans from your local hardware store and set them up at your open attic windows so the fan closest to the shady-est window sucks air into the attic, and the fan set closest to your sunniest window blows air out.
Keep the shades closed in your home – sunny windows can make your air conditioner work two to three times harder. Also, make certain that your ceiling fans are blowing downward (usually in a counter-clockwise direction, but this will depend upon the slant of your fan blades) to send air past your body and keep heat from collecting in your home.
Simple tips for keeping cool: If you’re feeling like you’re going to wilt, try dunking your feet and ankles in cool water. If you can’t do this, put a cool washrag against the back of your neck. If you can’t do that, rub an ice cube along the inside of your wrists. If you want a cool scent, grind some lavender with a spice grinder and add a few tablespoons to some cornstarch and use it as a dusting powder. I also like to keep a bottle of 4711 Eau de Cologne in the fridge and dab it on my pulse points when I’m overcome by the heat.
Keeping yourself hydrated with cool water will help regulate your body temperature. Purchase a couple of stainless-steel water bottles (I’ve found them at CVS for as low as $3.30, or you can check your local Army surplus store for a canteen) and always keep a full one in your fridge that you can grab for mindless sipping at your desk or on the sofa.
Last year I was in my third trimester of pregnancy during a humid and miserable Massachusetts summer, so believe me, these things work. Oh, and those aforementioned trips to the lake and to the ice-cream store never hurt, either. After saving all this money on your energy statement, you’ve earned it!