We all want to save money on our electric bills. And as long as we are saving, we might as well save money all year long! Because heating and cooling our homes account for about 50 percent of our utility bills, that is a good place to start looking for ways to save.
Any time we improve our energy efficiency, we save money. There are a number of factors that impact energy efficiency, such as weather, the age and condition of the home, and desired comfort levels.
Spring and summer:
Right now, we are trying to stay cool. During these warmer months, energy savings and efficiency will require different measures, many of which are inexpensive. If it’s cool, open your windows in the evening and turn off your cooling system while sleeping. In the morning, shut the windows and blinds to hold in the cool air. When our windows are closed, we want to make sure we are sealing our homes the same as we did in winter.
When practical, plant trees and shrubs that provide shade in warm months and sunlight in winter. In addition to the aesthetic value, well-placed trees can take heat gain from the sun and provide needed shade by creating a canopy for the house.
In extremely hot weather, your cooling system will work harder to close the gap between the high outdoor temperature and the cool indoor thermostat setting. To lessen the difference in temperature between the two, and to lower cooling costs, set the thermostat as high as you can while maintaining your comfort level. Moreover, using a ceiling fan in conjunction with your air conditioning can allow you to increase the thermostat setting approximately four degrees with no reduction in comfort levels.
Always remember: Fans cool people, not rooms, so turn them off if you leave the room. During the hottest months, it’s so critical to replace any remaining incandescent bulbs with LEDs. LEDs can produce the same amount of light using up to 88 percent less power. And the waste heat from the old bulbs impacts energy use and creates wasteful and unwanted heat.
Fall and winter:
When the outdoor temperature is chilly, we want a warm home and seek to keep the warm air in. To maintain a warm indoor environment in chillier weather, there are simple steps you can take to increase energy efficiency.
Fall is a great time to examine seals on doors and windows to check for air leaks. Caulk and weatherstrip as needed to seal in warm air and energy savings. Similarly, examine outlets for air leaks, and where necessary, install gaskets around the outlet to prevent drafts. Check your attic access if it is located in the conditioned area of your home. It is infamous for not being sealed well and acting like a chimney drafting warm air out of your home. Can lights can do the same. Make sure they are sealed properly.
During the day, open curtains or drapes on south-facing windows to enable sunlight to heat your home naturally. Close curtains or drapes at night for an added layer of window insulation.
Before the temperature drops lower with the onset of winter, you may want to schedule a service appointment for your heating system to ensure it is operating at an optimal level. Always check your furnace filter and clean or replace it as necessary. Many times air may be leaking from around your window trim. This can be sealed with clear or paintable caulk.
Another low-cost energy savings tip for windows is taping or affixing heavy, clear plastic to the inside of your window frames to create an additional barrier against cold air. Ensure that the plastic is tightly sealed to the frame to help reduce infiltration. There are several window sealing kits to choose from at your local hardware store.
Plus, you can use a programmable thermostat to set the temperature as low as is comfortable when you are home (ideally around 68 F). When you are asleep or away, turn the temperature down a few more degrees for eight hours or more. According to the Department of Energy, this small adjustment can help you save approximately 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs. If you have a heat pump, be careful about turning down that thermostat. Too much of a temperature drop inside your home can trigger the emergency electric heat to kick on, resulting in an electric bill that’s higher than it needs to be.
Add all these energy efficiency suggestions together, and you can save money all year long!
Member Services Manager and
Energy Advisor at Fulton County REMC