Tips & Resources
A cool home is like an oasis on a hot summer day, but high energy bills can turn that relaxing image into a mere mirage. Fortunately, maximizing your home’s energy efficiency in order to lower energy costs is possible with a few smart strategies.
Hire a professional to conduct a home energy assessment, or perform one yourself by walking through your home paying careful attention to potential energy drains. Make a checklist of areas you’ve inspected and note any problems you’ve discovered. Pay particular attention to drafts and air leaks around windows, doors, electrical outlets and the junctures of walls and ceilings.
If temperatures where you live cool off at night, turn off your energy-consuming cooling system and open windows to allow cooler air to circulate for free. Window coverings prevent heat gain during the day. According to energy.gov, about 76 percent of sunlight coming through standard double-pane windows becomes heat. Choose window coverings that are adjustable and let you balance the need to keep heat out but let light in.
Set your thermostat as high as possible to save money while still maintaining comfort. The less the system has to work, the more energy savings you will realize. Use a programmable thermostat to automatically raise the temperature when no one is home and lower it to the optimal temperature when you return. Resist setting the temperature to lower than normal because doing so wastes energy and money without cooling your home any faster.
Ceiling fans are an economical way to cool your home and allow your air conditioner to operate more efficiently. Choose a ceiling fan (and air conditioner) with an Energy Star rating for maximum efficiency. The ceiling fan creates a wind chill effect that helps occupants of the room feel cooler, which means the thermostat can be set a few degrees higher. The fan doesn’t actually cool the room, however, so turn it off when no one is in that space.
Sealing cracks and openings is a simple way to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Caulking and weather stripping around windows and doors, as well as ensuring your home has sufficient insulation will keep the cool air in and the hot air out.
Avoid using appliances and lights that generate a lot of heat. On hot days, use the microwave or outdoor grill rather than the stove or oven. Dishwashers, computers and hair dryers create heat. Find ways to be more efficient with the appliances that you have to use. Reduce your hot water use. Install energy-efficient lighting and appliances.
Keep air vents clean and free of debris with occasional vacuuming, and make sure they aren’t blocked by furniture or other items. Regularly change the air filter in your cooling system — every one to three months — to keep it running as efficiently as possible. Dirty air filters cause the air conditioner to work harder (use more energy), break down more often and need replacing sooner.
HVAC technology is constantly improving, so replacing an old, inefficient air conditioner with a new high-efficiency one can quickly save you money by lowering the operating expense. Those savings will offset the expense of the replacement. Rebates may also be available to lower the upfront cost.