Summer’s almost here, but with sun and fun come high costs: childcare, vacations, emergency trips to the local ice cream parlor.
According to The New York Times, families spend an average of nearly $1,000 per child on summertime frivolities for those precious few weeks separating one school year from the next. Families on a budget are dying to know: Where are they supposed to get this extra money from?
Energy savings here and there around the home can help you divert money they would normally spend on utilities toward summertime fun. However, to reap the biggest savings, you will need to get the whole family on board and prepare your entire home for energy efficiency.
Think you have what it takes to transform your house into an energy-saving machine? Read through our room-by-room summer energy saving tips below:
Most months of the year, your living room is the hub of the household. Summer weather changes all that. On blue-sky afternoons and warm nights, backyards and patios become the hangout location of choice for families and friends. What does this mean for energy usage and savings potential back in the den?
Don’t stand for standby power loss
Even though your living room television, stereo equipment and various video game consoles may be turned off, they still consume electricity, also known as vampire energy.
How much? According to one study from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the equivalent of 50 500-megawatt power plants running all year round. Financially speaking, that’s around $19 billion of energy annually or $165 per household per year. Remember, that’s the cost of leaving your electronics off, not on.
Reclaim standby losses by plugging all your living room electronics into a single power strip and then flipping the strip’s switch off. Only then can you leave your electronics plugged in and prevent idle power drain at the same time.
Give a little thought to your thermostat
Heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems account for nearly half of all household energy consumption, according to the Department of Energy, so they are a crucial part of any home efficiency project.
Programmable thermostats operate either according to a schedule or a simple on/off switch. If you have always turned your thermostat on and off as needed, consider programming it to your family’s summertime schedule. After all, can’t you remember one time when you accidentally left the system running all day when no one was home?
Already have a programmed schedule left over from the winter? Don’t just flip the switch from hot to cold. Reflect on all the ways your schedule varies between the winter and the summer. The amount of extra time you are sure to spend outside should more than convince you it’s a good idea to update your thermostat schedule.
Not sure where you put your thermostat’s user manual? Write down the make and model and see if your favorite search engine can’t turn something up.
Avoid sending your energy up in smoke
Does your living room have a hearth complete with a fireplace? In the summertime, your chimney acts like an escape route for all the cool air generated by your air conditioner. Close the flue and plug it with an insulated chimney stopper so your home takes less time to cool and you use every bit of cold air your HVAC system produces.
Hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled corn on the cob – nothing signals the arrival of summer quite like the smell of barbecue. As it turns out, how you prepare food this summer will determine your summer energy savings.
End the feud between your oven and your AC
Ovens create a lot of heat. That’s their job. But your AC’s job is to cool things down. See the problem?
Leave your HVAC system off when you cook and make sure its sensors won’t turn it back on automatically. Doing so will prevent your air conditioner from competing with dinner. Better yet, pick a few days a week that you’ll definitely grill outside or incorporate low- to no-cook meals into your summer menus, like a bountiful salad overflowing with veggies and cold leftover chicken or deli meat.
Wait, then refrigerate
In the world of energy-efficient appliances, refrigerators are sort of a necessary evil. They run 24/7 and consume a lot of electricity. This one tip, however, can minimize the impact your fridge has on your summer energy bills. When you do cook, don’t forget to let hot food cool down and properly wrap it before sticking it in the fridge.
As the DOE explained, hot or uncovered foods in the refrigerator create moisture and raise its internal temperature, which puts the compressor into overdrive and wastes energy. Give your summer snacks time to temper before placing them in airtight containers and refrigerating them.
Dish out the savings
The jury’s still out on whether it is more energy efficient to wash dishes by hand or in a dishwasher. Depending on how economical you are with the hot water from your tap or how tightly you pack your dishwasher before running it, it can really go either way.
What we can all agree on, however, is that air-drying your dishes is certainly more energy-efficient than using the heated-dry cycle setting on your dishwasher. If possible, avoid this feature altogether and let the summertime heat do your drying completely free of charge.
Don’t let energy costs catch you sleeping. Put these tips to use in your bedroom.
HVAC efficiency you’ve always dreamed of
As refreshing as it may be to crank the AC on particularly humid summer nights and leave it blasting until morning, you’ll certainly pay for it when your utility bill comes due. As mentioned above, programming your HVAC prevents overuse, but try other low-energy alternatives before relying on AC.
Cross-ventilation with strategically opened windows, for example, creates channels that draw cool air in and pushes hot air out. Box fans wedged in the windows encourage this circulation and use a lot less energy than AC. This is also the perfect solution for people who need the white noise of an HVAC system to lull them to sleep or drown out the symphony of summer crickets outside.
Word to the wise: Prop open all your doors, including bedroom doors, as the shifting air pressure could cause them to slam in the middle of the night.
It’s curtains for wasted energy
Even morning people can agree: Hot summer sunbeams bearing down on your bed first thing in the morning take all the joy out of waking to the sun. You’re uncomfortable. You’re sweaty. And once you manage to get up, you’re heading right to the air conditioner.
What might be less expensive in the long run is buying a few sets of blackout curtains to hang in your bedroom and in the parts of the home that receive the most direct sunlight. The right draperies hung intelligently around the home can mitigate indoor heat gain by 33 percent, according to the DOE.
Just because the kids are off from school doesn’t mean you’re off from work. That said, you can give yourself a break from high energy prices by changing your behavior while you work in your home office.
A/C all to yourself
The kids are playing outside. Your spouse commuted into work. That leaves you alone in a hot house. As tempting as it is to treat yourself to a whole house worth of air conditioning, think about all the rooms you’ll cool for absolutely no reason. How selfish!
Instead, open the windows, bring in a fan or, if absolutely necessary, invest in a small, energy-efficient window-mounted AC unit just large enough to cool your office without adding too much to your electricity usage.
Take back the power with power management
With a quick click of a mouse button, you can drop your annual electricity bill by between $10 to $100, according to Energy Star. How? By turning on power-saving settings on your computer.
Depending on the operating system in question, this change might disable features that prevent your device from entering sleep mode or reduce limits on screen brightness, all of which draw less energy from your outlets and/or lengthen the life on your laptop battery. Smartphones may also have power management settings you can exploit. Peruse your user manual for more information.
While you might not spend a lot of time the unfinished, cobwebbiest rooms in your house, how well you prepare these spots for summertime energy savings will have a remarkable impact on the rest of your home.
Give your energy consumption a seal of approval
Doors leading into your garage, or any point of egress, is all that separates your cool and conditioned air from the summer heat and makes your garage not very efficient.
A report published in The Washington Post found air leaks at windows and doors accounted for more than 20 percent of all indoor cooling losses. A plastic door-sweep for the door leading into your garage might set you back a few dollars, but will stop a lot of cool air from fleeing from your home, thus saving your family in energy consumption.
‘Tanks’ for the savings
Tanked water systems always keep hot water on hand, but one without insulation will heat and reheat the same water over and over, sapping your efficiency.
Although it may be summer, take a lesson from your winter wardrobe: Bundle up. An insulated jacket specifically designed for hot water tanks and adjacent piping prevents standby heat loss and can pay for itself in as little as one year, according to the DOE.
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