16 Ways to save on utility costs without melting in the heat of the summer

The heat wave we have seen this summer thus far has caused record high temperatures over much of the United States. Those record high temperatures mean our air conditioners are working overtime. That can lead some unpleasant surprises in the mailbox when our utility bills arrive. Here are some ways we can stay cool without busting the budget.

1. Turn up the thermostat.

Try not to set your thermostat under 78 – 80 if you can manage it. For each degree under 78, you will likely increase your energy usage by 3-4%.

2. Cover your windows

Windows make a big difference. Pull the drapes  or close your blinds on sun facing windows.  Direct sunlight through a window can increase the temperature of a room by 10-20 degrees. Additionally you can purchase solar shades or reflective film to place on windows that will help to limit the amount of heat that comes through the windows.

3. Fans

Keeping the air moving will help you feel cooler. Fans don’t really cool the air, but the circulating air will help you feel cooler, so just make sure you turn the fans off when you leave the room. A window fan blowing out can also be very helpful in drawing the warm air out of the house. Ceiling fans are also very effective in keeping the air circulating. Most fan speeds are reversible. Generally speaking in the summer most fans should be set to rotate counter-clockwise as this will cause them to push air down.

4. Call your utility company

Many utility companies have special deals to help you save on your costs. For example, some companies have programs where they will install a switch on items like your hot water heater allowing them to temporarily shut them off for a short time during peak usage times. This helps them manage the overall consumption and in return they will give you a lower rate.

5. Make sure your AC is well maintained.

Replace filters monthly or clean them if you have a permanent filter. If you have an outside condenser unit clear away any bushes or plant growing nearby. Allowing proper air circulation will help it run more efficiently. Have an AC technician come give your system a check-up if that hasn’t been done in a while.

If you are able to set the fan speed on your AC you should set it at a lower speed if the humidity is high. This will allow the system to draw more moisture out of the air as it passes through.

6. Avoid heat generating appliances.

Cook with the microwave or on the grill to avoid starting the oven. If you have the opportunity, put up an old-fashioned clothes line and use that to dry your clothes instead of running the dryer. If you must use heat generating appliances try to do it in the early morning or late evening.

7. Check your bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs generate a good deal of heat. Replacing them with compact fluorescents can reduce heat and help you feel much cooler.

8.  Take care of what is near your thermostat

It’s a simple thing but watch what you place near your thermostat. An incandescent light nearby can fool the thermostat into thinking the room is warmer than it really is and cause your system to run unnecessarily.

9. Programmable thermostats

Particularly if your house is often empty for regular periods of time, a programmable thermostat can help you save. One piece of conventional wisdom has said that keeping the house at a constant temperature is more efficient than trying to cool off a hot house. Studies have shown though that particularly with today’s more energy-efficient units this really isn’t true. You will save more by not running the air when no one is home.

10. Close registers

If you have central air, close registers in unused rooms. Just be careful to not close too many as the increased air pressure can cause leaks in your ducts. If you are unsure of how many you can safely close, talk to your heating and air technician when they come to service your unit.

Longer term tips to save on your utility costs

These items might not help immediately, but can save in the long run. Some of them can be costly. You should always save up and pay cash for larger home repairs. Some of these items might not pay for themselves in savings, but by making wise choices you can save on utility costs while making a needed home repair.

11. Plant shade trees

12. Choose lighter colors when selecting exterior paints.

13. Metal roofs or at least lighter colored roofing materials will reflect much more heat.

14. New windows help with keeping out the cold in the winter but they can be just as effective at keeping out heat in the summer.

15. Upgrade your system if it is very old, as newer systems are often more energy-efficient.

16. Good insulation and sealing cracks will help keep warm air out and cool air in.

Stay cool and on budget

Heating and cooling costs can be up to 50% of your monthly utility bill. Using some of these tips will help you lesson the chunk those bills take out of your budget each month and still keep cool during the heat of the summer.

What is your best tip for saving on cooling costs in the summer?

Photo credit: ToastyKen

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