Before summer is here, start planning now for ways to beat the heat at home and save on electricity. While the easiest thing to do is shop around for a lower electric rate that can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year, it’s a big hassle.
How about dozens of other easier no-cost and low-cost ways to further reduce your electric bills this summer? All without any up-front expense or requiring any big changes in your daily routines:
Cooling and Water Heating
- Set your air conditioner 5 degrees higher to save up to 20% on cooling costs. Setting your thermostat to 78 degrees instead of 74 during warmer months can save up to $260 a year in cooling costs.
- Use fans to make indoor temperatures feel cooler as most ceiling fans use less energy than a light bulb.
- Clean or replace air filters. Dirty filters can increase operating costs by 20%.
- Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120°F or the “Normal” setting. It’s hot outside… who wants a hot shower in July? Water heating accounts for about 13% of home energy costs.
- Install a programmable thermostat to keep your house comfortably warm in the winter and comfortably cool in the summer.
- Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It won’t cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and, therefore, unnecessary expenses.
- During the summer, keep your window coverings closed during the day to prevent the sun heating the interior of your home. Close your curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day, and install awnings over your south- and west-facing windows.
- Apply sun-control or other reflective films on south-facing windows to reduce solar gain.
- Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
- Avoid placing lamps or TV sets near your air-conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
- Plant trees or shrubs near your air conditioning unit to shade it, but not to block the airflow.
- Have your air conditioning unit serviced to cut 15% of cooling costs.
- Seal cracks, gaps, and leaks, and add extra insulation to save up to 20% on home cooling costs.
Kitchen and Laundry
- Let your dishes air dry instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle. If you don’t have an automatic air-dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open slightly so the dishes will dry faster.
- Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible. About 90% of the energy used in a clothes washer goes to water heating, and using cold water can save you up to 50 cents per load.
- Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
- Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37° to 40°F for the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator and 5°F for the freezer section. To check your refrigerator temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To check the freezer temperature, place a thermometer between two frozen food packages. Read it after 24 hours.
- Regularly defrost manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers. Frost buildup decreases the energy efficiency of the unit. Don’t allow frost to build up more than one-quarter of an inch.
- Dust the refrigerator coils as this helps refrigerators run more efficiently.
- Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment, the seal may need replacing, or you might consider buying a new unit.
- Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
- Be sure to place the faucet lever on the kitchen sink in the cold position when using small amounts of water. Placing the lever in the hot position uses energy to heat the water even though it may never reach the faucet.
- Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
- Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
- Don’t over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
- Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.
- Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.
- Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks.
- Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use. In fact, you should turn off your computer every night. Many people believe that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. This incorrect perception carries over from the days of older mainframe computers.
- Plug home electronics, such as TVs, DVD players, VCRs, battery charges, printers, into power strips. Turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use (TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power). Taken together, these small items can use as much power as your refrigerator.
- When you’re not using your laptop’s AC adapter, be sure to unplug it from the electrical outlet, rather than from the laptop. When plugged into the wall outlet, the transformer in the AC adapter draws power continuously, even when the laptop isn’t plugged into the adapter.
- Use your computer’s power saving settings, including automatic monitor shut-off and “sleep” mode when not in use to make sure energy is saved.