Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ways To Save Money and Save Electricity During The Summer

With the summer heat, higher energy demands, and higher costs for electricity, it would be nice to save as much electricity as you possibly can. The reward, of course, is saving money, saving electricity, and saving resources. Here are some useful, some common sense, tips for saving energy and money: :)

  • Use ENERGY STAR air conditioners, since they are the most energy efficient models on the market [of course, all ENERGY STAR appliances are more expensive than one without; but, it may be well worth the initial cost compared to the added energy savings!]
  • For central air conditioning systems, the more energy efficient the system is, the more cooling you get for your dollar. All central AC units with a SEER value (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) of 13 or better are considered ENERGY STAR compliant. I helped my parents get a SEER 14 unit last year; and they do notice the house gets cooler much faster than their old system. They also got a new heating unit; but my parents say the bill was about the same as the year before (primarily because electric companies rose their rates!)
  • For wall/window air conditioner units, the higher the EER value is, the more savings. Again, ENERGY STAR and higher EER units cost more at the store; but the energy savings may be well worth it! Most units are between 8.0-11.5. (Note: BTU has nothing to do with efficiency; it is the British Thermal Unit, which is the amount of heat the AC can remove from a room. A small room of ~150 sqft would be sufficient with a 5,000 BTU unit. A 400-450 sqft room would need 10,000 BTU/hr. Matching Btu requirements to room size is important.)
  • Note about ENERGY STAR appliances: Check with your electric company for special rebate offers. They periodically have special offers for mail-in rebates on new purchases of ENERGY STAR products.
  • If you have central AC, keep the thermostat at 78 degrees. It is estimated you can save an additional 5-7% off your cooling costs for each degree above 78. However, I think this is uncomfortable. When home, I prefer around 74-76. When not home, I would increase it to 79-80... so that I dont cool the house when no one is there to use it.
  • Close all windows, curtains, blinds, shades, covers (especially windows facing the south and west). Limit as much of daylight sun as possible, since this causes rooms to be warmer. (At nights, you may want to open the windows to allow the summer cool breezes enter the room. If you have allergies, then this is not an option. You can use the fan setting at night when the air outside is cool.)
  • Consider installing a whole house fan, or ceiling fan to create a cool breeze and keep the air circulating.
  • Check the AC filter at least 2x's furing the warm season, and clean it.
  • If AC has a timer, set it to turn on no more than 20 minutes before you expect to return home. Or, just wait 'till you get home to turn on the fan and AC.
  • When you are not home, it is best to either set the temperature high enough to keep the AC off, or just have the AC unit off. It's wasteful to have the AC continuously on when no one is using it. Even at night, you dont need the AC on full-blast at a cold temperature.
  • Using portable fans are much cheaper than using your AC.
  • On humid days, if your refrigerator has a switch for "power saver", use it. When the switch is on, small heaters keep the outside from condensation. On other days, turn this off. For efficient energy saving tip, make sure the fan vent is clean and the coils in the back are clear from dust. Dusty coils make the compressor harder to work and uses more electricity.
  • Try to postpone doing laundry and dishwashing until nighttime to avoid generating the extra heat they give off. Better yet, after the wash and rinse cycles, take your dishes out and allow them to air dry. This will save energy to dry off your dishes, and prevent the hot air and steam that would enter the kitchen. For laundry, if it's possible, do not use the dryer. Air dry your clothes on a clothes line or drying rack-- put the drying rack in a room that is the warmest, or put it on an enclosed porch or somewhere outside (backyard).
  • Use your microwave or countertop appliances for cooking instead of the oven or stove. Better yet, try to limit all indoor cooking. A grill is a great investment for the spring, summer, fall, and sometimes winter cooking. Plus, grilling and eating outside will lessen your need to have the AC on in the house!
  • If possible, keep your air conditioner out of the sun; but do not block the vents!
  • Turn your water heater down to 115-120 degrees will save you money. It's comfortable!

  • Replace all incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs (Energy Star bulbs too). "For each bulb you replace, you can save from $10 or more on your electric costs over the life of the bulb." That's what my electric company says. Plus, the bulbs' life expectancy is 10,000 hours, compared to ~750-950 hours for standard bulbs. 75W is replaced with 20W. 100W is replaced with 26 or 27W. 150W replaced with 30W.
  • Turn off appliances when not in use, such as the TV, DVD/VCR, computer, printer. Better yet, if they're connected to a powerstrip, turn off the power strip when not in use.
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  • ake showers instead of baths to reduce hot water. It's better to take lukewarm showers than hot showers.
  • Planting trees or shrubs (especially ones with leaves that fall during the winter) provide an extra shade to the house and windows, depending on where they are located. You want to block the strong daylight sun during the summer. (In winter, the leaves have fallen off, and will provide sunlight to enter for heat.)
  • Double pane windows are better (energy efficient windows are good!)
  • Weatherize, caulk and weatherstip. Prevent air leaks, drafts from doors and windows.
  • Add insulation around the AC ducts when they are located in non-cooling spaces like the garage, attics.
  • The fireplace damper should be tightly closed, if available.

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