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Those carefree summer days can turn into a real bummer when you open your first energy bill of the season to find it’s a lot higher than expected. This is especially true if you live in one of the warmer states where central air conditioning is as essential as running water.
We’ve come up with a few helpful pointers to assist you in putting more money into the vacation fund and less in the power company’s pocket.
Get a Jump on the Hot Weather
Start planning for your summer energy plan before the mercury rises. This way, you are planning ahead instead of reacting to a sky-high power bill.
Air Conditioning Filter: The first thing you’ll want to do is change your air conditioning filter before you put it into heavy rotation. Doing this will maximize the efficiency and improve the indoor air quality throughout your home. A dirty, clogged filter will force the unit to work harder than necessary and push dirt and dander from the filter throughout the home.
Consider buying a permanent, washable air filter. These will do a much better job of filtering our finer particulates that contribute to sensitivity and allergies. Instead of replacing these filters, they only need to be pulled out and cleaned periodically.
In addition to changing the air filter, it’s a good idea to have a tune-up done on your entire AC system. Most qualified air conditioning repair companies perform this type of service. It’s always a good idea to make sure your AC is running smoothly before it goes into a season of heavy use.
Thermostat Upgrade: Now’s a great time to upgrade that thermostat, particularly if you are using one with a manual dial to set the temperature. According to the United States Department of Energy, simply installing a programmable thermostat saves most homeowners 10% on their yearly heating and cooling costs.
You can take the savings even further by upgrading to a smart thermostat, such as Nest. These devices will learn your daily habits and adjust your temperature accordingly, helping to maximize efficiency even more.
Manage Costs All Summer Long
Once summer hits, you’ll want to take active measures to control energy costs without sacrificing your comfort. Don’t worry, these changes are pretty easy and some of them will even make your life a lot easier.
Rethink Your Cooking Routine: Using your oven as little as possible over the summer not only means a cooler kitchen, but a lower energy bill as well. That’s because you are avoiding the energy-sucking oven, and ensuring your AC won’t turn on too frequently due to the rising temperature in the kitchen.
Choose foods that require less cook time, or that can be heated in the microwave. The microwave is the most energy-efficient cooking component in your home, so put it to use. Of course, a nice salad prepared with cold chicken is always a nice refreshing dinner during the hot summer months.
Use the Dishwasher: Doing a sink full of dishes by hand is not only a dreaded chore around the house, it’s also not an energy efficient way to go. In fact, using your dishwasher is the most efficient way to get those dishes clean. Just remember to turn off the heated dry and let the dishes air dry in the rack.
Choose Your Laundry Method Wisely
Washing Machine: Using hot water to do your laundry is a real energy killer, and an unnecessary one at that. Using cold water will get your clothes as clean as hot water most of the time. Despite the scientific evidence that shows all but the most heavily-soiled clothes can be washed with cold water, more than 60% of Americans still use warm or hot water to do laundry.
According to Consumer Reports, just switching to cold water will save $60 a year or more. While that may not be a whopping amount of money, it will do significantly less harm to the environment. Think about how much energy would be saved if everyone on your block stopped using hot water for laundry.
The Dryer: If you live in a dry climate such as Phoenix, Arizona, line drying clothes is an excellent option. They’ll dry in no time out on your back patio in the morning before work, or even after the sun goes down. However, if you do need to use the dryer, be sure to clean the lint trap first and use a moisture sensor to automatically shut down when clothes are dry.
Don’t Waste Electricity
Of course a great way to conserve energy is to turn off appliances and lights when you are not using them. This is one of those things that’s easier said than done. If you have trouble remembering to turn off lights and appliances, a home automation system might be a good investment. Just program your lights to automatically turn off during those times you will not be at home.
It’s also not a bad idea to unplug household items after each use, especially if you don’t use them every day. Toaster ovens, hair dryers, computer printers and plenty of other devices will continue sucking energy as long as they remain plugged in.
A few small changes can really add up over time, saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the course of a year. The hardest thing about implementing these changes is making them a habit. However, once these changes become routine, it will feel like second nature. You’ll be doing right by the planet and saving money. Doesn’t get much better.
Erik Bryan is the owner of Precision Air and Heating. His company serves the air conditioning needs of the greater Phoenix, Arizona area. Bryan enjoys writing about topics that help people all over the country make their homes more efficient and environmentally-friendly.