Spring and summer are right around the corner, and so is the heat. If visions of blaring air conditioners and escalating utility bills threaten your sunny season, chase away the gloom by prepping your home for the onslaught of rising temperatures. Follow these eleven simple steps to conserve resources and save money.
1. Weather Strip Your Windows and Doors – Weather stripping, the process of sealing off all openings around windows and doors, prevents outside elements, such as heat or rain, from entering. Most home-building supply stores carry easy-to-install door sweeps, caulking and self-adhesive foam.
2. Service Your Air Conditioner – Air conditioners need to be maintained in order to run properly. Faulty equipment can waste energy. “Make sure your equipment is operating efficiently, the filters are cleaned, and your duct work is intact,” suggests Monte Mendenhall, regional community manager of Pacific Power.
3. Install Ceiling Fans – Fans are a great way to save on utilities year round. In hot months, fans make rooms feel cooler, allowing you to turn your thermostat temperature up. The investment will also pay off during winter months because fans also circulate warm air, allowing you to turn your thermostat temperature down.
4. Close Your Curtains – Block out the sun and heat by closing your curtains or blinds. If you have sheer curtains, purchase some inexpensive inner linings. Thick linings will better guard against burning sun rays and contain accumulated heat between the curtain and window. Better yet, block the heat before it even reaches your window by installing awnings outside.
5. Switch to Fluorescent Light Bulbs – Compact fluorescent light bulbs last longer and use less energy than incandescent light bulbs. Put them in areas where you consistently use lighting, such as kitchens or common rooms. “About 15 percent of the energy home’s usage is in lighting. Fluorescents use 66 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than regular light bulbs,” says Mendenhall.
6. Purchase a Programmable Thermostat – These allow you to set a desired temperature at a specific time. For example, if you and your spouse work regular nine-to-five jobs, you can program the air conditioner to shut off at 9 a.m. and turn on again around 4 p.m. By the time you both get home, the house will be comfortably cool, and you will have saved energy during those seven hours you weren’t at home.
7. Turn It Down – Lowering the temperature on your hot water heater can create significant savings. “When you turn on a hot water heater, it’s equal to 4,500 watt light bulbs coming on all at once. It can easily consume 50 percent of somebody’s electric bill if they have an electric water heater,” says Buzz Thielemann, President of RHT Energy Solutions. Any temperature over 110 degrees is unnecessary and wasteful.
8. Use Cold Water – Use cold water whenever possible. For instance, wash your clothes in a cooler temperature. Plus, cool showers may be a refreshing treat after working in the hot sun all day.
9. Line Dry Your Clothes – Take advantage of the heat and string a clothesline in your backyard. Dryers consume a lot of energy, and it only takes an extra hour for fabric to dry in a hot sun. Plus, your clothes will retain their shape and last longer if you let them air-dry.
10. Fix Your Leaks – Small drip leaks are really common in homes, wasting water and electricity. “Drippy hot water faucets can really rob your wallet. A two-drop per second leak would waste 429 gallons [of water] per month and cost $6.30 per month. A major leak, like a broken water pipe, can cost around $243 a month,” says Thielemann.
11. Get an Energy Audit – If you want even more advice on how to conserve energy in your home, call your local utility provider. Most utility companies (gas and electric) provide free energy audits. A professional will survey your house, point out your greatest energy leaks and suggest ways to save even more money.