It’s not quite summer yet, but that gives you the great opportunity to get ready and make sure that summer energy costs don’t bust your wallet. With oil and gas zooming to record cost levels, you can bet the home use of electricity and energy will be more expensive this summer than ever before. It’s time to get back to basics here at Super Saving Tips and talk about how you can save your money on your summer energy usage!
Where Do You Begin? Fans?
Summer means warmer temperatures and although it’s welcomed, it also means that you’ll be turning on fans and air conditioners to try to keep cool. That should prompt you to take a good look at those items and make sure they are all working properly and performing at their max. In the case of fans, are they sized right for the rooms they are in?
Room fans use fast moving air to increase the rate at which our bodies lose heat due to convection and evaporation. The faster moving air from the fan displaces the warmer air that is in direct contact with our skin. This means we feel cooler. Keep in mind that fans only blow air onto a person or place and do not cool a room. If it’s hot out, they are blowing air that may be warm, so don’t expect much relief except if you are trying simply to circulate air.
If you are in the market for a new fan, buy ones that are safe and energy efficient. Smart Saver products are very efficient and save you money. They will cost you less than two cents per hour of use if they are Smart Saver rated. Today, new fans can run from very inexpensive to several hundred dollars each.
There are many good, powerful Smart Saver fans made by Lasko priced under $100 that are safe and efficient and I recommend you check them out.
Where Do Fans Go?
Only use a fan when you are in the area of use, otherwise simply close off the room and save the energy cost for another area.
How can you help a fan cool a room? First, keep your windows, doors, and blinds shut during the day to avoid the hot sun beating down into your house. Then, during the evening, open your windows and place one fan facing out of your window, so it pushes the heat out. Use a second fan placed in the room to circulate air.
Ceiling fans are great and increase your energy efficiency. Be sure you have the blades spinning counter-clockwise during summer to push cool air down to the floor. Though energy-efficient fans don’t use a lot of electricity, leaving a ceiling fan on or any fan on when nobody is in the room is a complete waste of energy and money.
Central Air Conditioning
There are window/wall air conditioners and central air conditioners. If you have central air conditioning then the first words about it should be: service your air conditioning unit. An inefficient air conditioner raises your cooling costs. Maintaining your air conditioning unit on a regular basis is important and it saves your money.
For starters, the Department of Energy (DOE) recommends cleaning or replacing the filter in your air conditioner every month or two during summer. Filters may need more frequent cleaning or replacing if there is a lot of dust or if you have furry pets in the house.
A clogged or dirty filter blocks airflow and reduces the efficiency of the unit. Keep the filter clean to allow for good air movement and keep the unit level so the condensation drains properly.
Next, the coils in the evaporator and condenser also collect dirt and dust and need periodic cleaning. The coils in the outside condenser can trap leaves, twigs, and other debris. That usually means a pre-season professional cleaning by a reputable company done now, before the season actually begins. If it applies to your home, the DOE advises trimming foliage near the unit and keeping the area around the condenser free of dirt and debris.
You may spend $50-$100 for this service, but in the long run an inspection and cleaning will save you considerable money on your summer energy costs. If your air conditioning system is old, not running properly, or needs a tune-up, always hire a professional service technician. And if you develop a refrigerant leak, you should be aware of the Freon (R-22) phaseout and how it will affect your choices.
Do You Need a New Air Conditioning Unit?
You can cut your summer energy costs by replacing an old air conditioner for a new unit with a high energy-efficiency ratio, or EER, or an Energy Star-qualified unit. Higher EER ratings indicate a more efficient air conditioner. Energy Star is a system used by the U.S. government to designate energy-efficient products.
Close the Door!
One of the simplest ways to save on cooling costs is just like dear old Dad used to say: Close the vents and doors to rooms you are not using and limit or eliminate the cooling there. Concentrate on the rooms you are using. Spare rooms are not necessary to cool, period.
If there’s no one home during the day, you can save as much as 10% on your power bills by keeping the thermostat seven to ten degrees higher for eight hours, the DOE notes.
The DOE recommends keeping the thermostat at 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re home and not dropping it down to a super-low temperature after being gone all day. That doesn’t cool your home any faster and can result in excessive cooling and a bigger power bill at the end of the month.
Another trick: Set the air conditioning fan speed on high, except on very humid days, the DOE recommends. On humid days, set the fan speed on low. Why? The slower speed will remove more moisture from the air and improve the comfort of your home.
If you haven’t done so already, it might be time to switch to a programmable or “smart” thermostat that can be set to adjust the temperature in your home at certain hours of the day. Smart thermostats enable you to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home and many of them can be operated remotely.
The location of the thermostat is also important. To work efficiently, it should be on an interior wall away from direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights and windows, according to the DOE.
And don’t place furniture or curtains where they would block air conditioning vents.
Climate Matters, Too
Consider the climate you live in before buying any air conditioning system. For example, evaporative coolers, while much more economical than central AC units, are not suited for humid climates like Florida, but work well in hot, dry places like Arizona. It’s easier to cool a house in a dry climate. The amount of water you have around your house really affects your AC needs.
Window/Wall Air Conditioners
Window air conditioners (or through-the-wall air conditioners) are what many people use and depend on to cool off their homes. Many of the rules about fans apply to room air conditioners as well.
Window units and ductless AC units, including ductless mini-splits, are much cheaper to use than central air conditioning units. Central AC with ducts are more inefficient because of how much ducts can leak. Sometimes as much as 30% of the energy is leaked out of the ducts. A room AC or ductless system can be 50% cheaper than central air conditioning to use.
Ask Your Electric Company for Help
Most electric and gas utilities are offering bill payment assistance to their customers. New York-based ConEdison, for example, is offering monthly discounts to customers who are on Social Security and some other government assistance programs. Where I live here in New Jersey, both of the largest utilities, JCP&L and PSE&G have assistance programs. They allow you to get discounts and even bill forgiveness if you can’t make payments and have fallen behind on you bills when you income qualify. Utility companies across the country offer similar programs.
LIHEAP and HEA
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a national program that you may qualify for when you need help. It provides federally funded assistance in managing costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs.
Another useful benefit, some utility companies allow you to pay the same amount every month (equal payment plans or EPP) over the full year to avoid huge spikes in your bill during cooling and heating seasons.
You can even get a free Home Energy Analyzer (HEA) visit from your electric company that will give you free suggestions on how you can customize savings for your living space!
Visit your utility company’s website or give them a call and ask about discounts, budget billing, and other options that could help you reduce your AC costs this summer.
Right now is the perfect time to prepare for the summer heat and its cooling bills. Check what you have and make sure it’s in order and look for ways mentioned here that you can apply to save on summer energy costs. Your electric bill could be higher than it’s ever been before and that may even mean a bit of temperature suffering will be necessary to get by this summer. But if you do everything now to prepare, you can save and make this summer affordable, too. That would be “cool”, wouldn’t it?
Can you afford your current electric bill and what this summer season will bring to it? Will you be looking for ways to save and can you start right now?