Summer’s long, sunny days can come with rising utility costs as more energy goes toward cooling your home and other needs. But how can you keep your utility costs down as temperatures rise?
While some repairs and upgrades to your home can be costly, there are a few easy ways to keep a handle on your utility costs, especially if you’ve been having trouble paying your bills. Here are ideas straight from the experts on how to save energy.
1. Put a timer on your hot water heater
You probably don’t need hot water in your house when you’re away at work. So why pay to keep the water hot all day?
“You can put a time on the hot water heater so that if you leave in the morning to go to work, you can have that timed off until four or five in the afternoon and have it come back on,” said Jule Philpot, owner of Mr. Electric in central Kentucky. “When I’m away during the day, it won’t be using electricity when I’m gone. It only takes a few minutes to heat it up.”
Philpot said some hot water heaters might come installed with an on-and-off switch. Check yours to see if you do or if you want to add a timer.
2. Don’t turn off your air conditioner during the day
There are two schools of thought on whether you should turn off your air conditioning during the day while you’re at work. Some people contend that it’s a waste of energy to leave it on all day. Others, such as Philpot, have a different line of thought.
“I don’t turn my heating and air completely off because it takes longer to heat back up and cool back down,” he said. “Everything that’s in the house has to get cool.” This includes your wood, stone, and furniture. These can hold heat and be challenging to cool during the hottest part of the day, when you’re likely to return home from work.
Philpot doesn’t think you should leave your air conditioning on full blast, however. “The only thing I would say is you can adjust your thermostat so it’s not coming on as much,” said Philpot. That way, you’re not using as much energy, and you don’t have to work from square one to get your place cooled down.
3. Change your lightbulbs to LEDs
If you haven’t changed your lightbulbs to LEDs yet, Philpot said now is the time to do it. “The total cost of electricity if you used your lightbulbs for 25,000 hours at 12 cents per kilowatt would be $180 with incandescent bulbs, and the LED bulbs would be $30,” he said. Those are pretty significant savings for a simple change at home.
Also, you might have to change your lightbulbs by law in the near future. The federal government passed a law that will force lightbulbs to be three times more efficient by 2020. You could save yourself more money in the long run by changing your lightbulbs now. Some power companies might help offset the cost of the change with rebates.
Check this online search tool to see if there are any rebates offered for switching lightbulbs in your area.
4. Switch your ceiling fan direction
“All ceiling fans have two settings,” said J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a home improvement services provider. “One clockwise and one counterclockwise. The counterclockwise forces the air down and cools you off.”
Make sure you change the direction of your ceiling fan in the summer months to counterclockwise. That way, it’ll work in tandem with your air conditioner. Depending on where you live, the ceiling fan might also be cool enough that you could forgo air conditioning altogether.
“There certainly are some climates that you might be able to get away with just the ceiling fan,” said Sassano.
5. Fill leaks in your home
With all of the work it takes to cool your home, you’ll want to ensure your home has good airflow. “It’s about finding the spots in your house where the air can escape … you don’t want it to,” said Sassano.
He said some leaks are possible to fill on your own, while those in hard-to-reach places are better left to a professional. If you notice major leaks, you might have to dip into your emergency home repair fund. In general, though, you might be able to fix some problems with minimal investment.
“Weather stripping around doors is pretty easy to do, there’s also a gasket around outlets that you can do as well,” said Sassano.
For weather stripping, he recommended using a light test to see if the seal is solid. “Check your seal at the bottom of your doors when they open and close, so it’ll shut out the air and also insects, bugs, and rodents,” he said. “If you turn off your lights and can see through the door — see daylight on the other side — you have some sealing problems.”
Sassano said that checking your seals should be a regular part of your maintenance. “Anything that has a caulk or a seal, you want to do a check on that every couple of years to make sure the seal hasn’t been broken or the caulk hasn’t been dried up,” he said. “Anything around your windows is the most important thing.”
Enjoy summer knowing you’re saving money
With a few smart adjustments to your home, you can enjoy the summer heat and long days knowing you’re getting the best deal on your energy. That means more money left over for summer vacations and cookouts.
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