By Hilary Thompson
It’s easy for energy bills to sneak up on you during the summer months when air conditioning becomes a necessity for staying safe and cool. The good news is there are plenty of ways to save energy at home throughout the summer season, whether it’s on cooling or in other areas that consume power – and some take hardly any effort at all.
1. Cut the lights.
There are plenty of ways to combat a high summer energy bill, and some are definitely easier than others. One simple way is to create a habit of turning off lights whenever you can. While you should never sacrifice safety for the sake of your energy bill, summer allows us to experience longer days and more hours of natural light. Use that advantage to the best of your ability, as artificial lighting can increase the heat inside your home.
There’s a balance, however, because sunlight streaming into an already warm room will mean the air conditioner or HVAC system will need to run longer, using up more energy. Using blackout curtains for the most sun-exposed windows, such as those that face the south, also can help save you money. To help keep energy costs low, switch to LED bulbs that consume less energy, or install smart bulbs that can be programmed to turn off when you leave the room. The up-front cost is higher than incandescent bulbs, but you’ll be happier when the energy bill arrives.
2. Rearrange the furniture.
One important way to ensure your HVAC system or air conditioner is working to its most efficient capacity is to ensure the vents or unit is not blocked. It sounds simple, but it’s easy for things to get in the way and decrease the airflow. Make sure items, including draperies, are not blocking the airflow vents. Move chairs and other furniture away from wall-unit air conditioners. Make sure vents and filters are clean, allowing them to run without hindrance.
3. Get new appliances.
Not a cheap fix, by any means, but when it’s time to replace your appliances, invest in energy-efficient brands and models. They can save significant energy consumption and will be noticeable on your energy bill. Look for Energy Star-labeled appliances, which meet special efficiency standards.
Smart appliances also can save you money in the long run. What makes appliances smart? They have capabilities that regular appliances don’t. For one, they can notify you through your smartphone or email when energy is being wasted, such as if the freezer door is ajar, or when something’s broken and needs repair, saving you the cost of replacing the whole appliance. Smart fridges can tell you when certain foods are about to expire, or when you’re running low on your favorite foods.
Additionally, smart appliances also give you the ability to monitor them through your smartphone, a benefit that can come in handy if you’re on vacation or are a snowbird. Can’t remember if you turned off the oven or turned down the temperature on the empty fridge? No problem. You can access your appliances remotely for peace of mind. Best of all, these smart appliances normally have the ability to regulate their own energy use, and consume only what’s necessary.
4. Make dumb appliances smart.
Your small appliances, such as humidifiers, coffee makers, lamps, desktop computers, and other items, will consume energy even when you’re not using them, if you leave them plugged into the wall. Why pay for energy for devices that aren’t in use? If you prefer not to have to remember to unplug everything all the time, using smart plugs can save energy. These miniature smart devices can simply be plugged into the wall before you plug in your device. They can reduce the amount of lost energy, they can be programmed to turn devices on or off at certain times, or you can operate them remotely. It’s a simple and cost-effective way to see bigger savings.
5. Change your habits.
It’s easy to get into the habits of convenience, especially during colder winter months, but there are ways you can consume less power simply by changing your behavior. Do you have the ability to hang your clothes outside on the line or on the balcony? You’ll save the cost of running the dryer, and your laundry will smell even better than if you use dryer sheets. Wash clothes in cold water to save on hot water heat, and while you’re at it, take a shower instead of a bath to save more. Running the dishwasher? Make sure it’s loaded to full capacity before starting a load, or, if you only have a few dishes to do, wash them in the sink and let them air dry. Lower the thermostat on the hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid wasting energy, as well as to prevent burns.
6. Get audited.
Not sure where your home may be losing energy? Check with your local utility company for a free energy audit to find out where your home may be letting heat or air escape. Find out where the problem areas may be – unfinished rooms, the basement, attic, or windows that need new caulk or weather-stripping can be among the culprits. The experts can tell you where the suspect areas may be.
7. Share meals.
As the world begins to open back up after the coronavirus crisis, it’s a great time to reconnect in person with friends. While people have been experiencing the shutdown, many have turned to making delicious meals and baked goods at home. Keep it going, but save on the energy of cooking a meal for yourself each night, and instead share the effort with friends. Think about creating a round-robin meal night a couple of times a week – it takes virtually no more energy to cook more servings of the same meal, and then you can have the benefit of sharing and getting together with friends. You also would save the energy of not having to cook meals on your nights off.
Additionally, tapping into the power of local farmer’s markets – many of which are open and running now – to get fresh, locally grown foods – saves on the energy of transporting them to market, packaging, and other costs, thus saving you money as the end consumer. Plus, you can use fresh vegetables and fruits to build great salads, saving you the energy of having to cook a hot meal.
There are plenty of ways this summer to make sure your costs stay low this summer – it just takes a little bit of thought and effort to save energy throughout your home.
Hilary is a freelance journalist and mother of two who loves to write about everything from senior health to business, tech and parenting. Coffee is her friend. You can follow her on Twitter @TypewriterHil.