Home energy costs will rise with the temperature this summer, as air conditioning comes into play and continuing tight natural gas supplies put upward pressure on electricity prices. To help consumers reduce their home energy bills and help the nation reduce overall energy use, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Alliance to Save Energy have joined forces on a year-long Powerful $avings campaign and offer consumers tips on smart energy practices and energy-efficiency home improvements:
Smart Energy Practices
- A well-maintained cooling system will run more efficiently, use less energy, and lower energy bills, so clean or replace AC filters monthly or as needed. Also, keep both outdoor and indoor air conditioner coils clean. Dirt build-up on the indoor coil is the single most common cause of poor operating efficiency.
- Reduce the cooling load by effectively shading east and west windows. When possible, delay heat-producing activities such as dish washing until the evening. Close curtains during the day, and install awnings on south-facing windows. Plant shade trees or vines.
- During the cooling season, keep your house closed tight in the daytime to keep unwanted heat and humidity out. If practical, ventilate at night either naturally or with fans.
- Avoid running a dehumidifier at the same time as the AC. The dehumidifier will increase the cooling load and force the air conditioner to work harder.
- Turn off your computer and monitor when you are done using them; activate the “sleep” feature so the machine powers down when on but not in use for a while. When you leave a room, turn off the lights and all other energy-using equipment.
- Shift energy-intensive tasks such as laundry and dish washing to off-peak energy demand hours to increase electricity reliability during heat waves; do full loads when you run washers, dryers, and dishwashers; wash clothes in cold water when possible; clean the lint filter in your dryer after every load.
- Keep lamps or TVs away from the air conditioner thermostat. The heat they generate will cause your air conditioner to run longer, running up bills unnecessarily.
For more information, visit the Alliance to Save Energy web site.
- Get the most energy-efficient air conditioner you can afford. Look for a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) 12 or higher on central systems and the ENERGY STAR® label on room units. Savings will show up on your next electric bill.
- Save up to 10 percent a year with a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature by 10 to 15 percent for the hours that the house is unoccupied.
- Ceiling and other fans provide additional cooling and better circulation so you can raise the thermostat and cut down on air conditioning costs. ENERGY STAR-qualified ceiling fans do even better, moving air up to 20 percent more efficiently than conventional models, and those that include energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are up to 50 percent more efficient than those with incandescent lighting. The CFLs last six to 10 times longer than traditional lighting and generate 70 percent less heat.
- Sufficient insulation can increase your comfort and reduce your cooling costs up to 30 percent. Start with the attic – which can reach temperatures of 115 degrees – followed by exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces. Insulate and seal attic air ducts, too. For more information, see the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association’s (NAIMA) consumer web site, www.simplyinsulate.com.
- Plug energy leaks by caulking and weather stripping all seams, cracks and openings to the outside. You can save 10 percent or more on energy bills by reducing air leaks.
- The Efficient Windows Collaborative (www.efficientwindows.org) explains how high-performance ENERGY STAR windows can reduce average cooling costs from 15 to 35 percent in central and southern climate zones. With efficient windows, homeowners can invest in smaller, less expensive cooling systems while maintaining indoor comfort.
- Finance energy efficiency investments when refinancing your mortgage to take advantage of low interest rates. The interest may be deductible, and your monthly energy bills will be lower.
- Cut utility bills by up to 30 percent with air conditioners, major appliances, lighting, and electronics that have the ENERGY STAR label – the government’s symbol for energy efficiency.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which use one-fourth the energy and last up to seven times longer. Replace halogen torchiere fixtures with compact fluorescent torchieres that use 60-80 percent less energy, produce more light, and stay cooler.
- For outdoor lighting, consider combining energy-efficient light bulbs with motion sensors to provide security while reducing energy use. Indoors, use dimmers, timers, or occupancy/motion detectors or timers.