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Beat the heat, and high electric bills, with careful energy use

July 21st, 2011

From Green Right Now Reports

Heat wave anyone?

If you live in the American Southwest, South, Midwest or Northeast, chances are you’re broiling this summer. And with little cool off in sight, except for the Midwest, your next big headache will arrive with your July bills.

You can mitigate that double whammy of savage heat followed by a wickedly high electricity bill, by following a few tips put out by the Alliance to Save Energy. Changing out filters and caulking windows may not be not the icy cold splash of water you’re craving right now, but these tweaks can save you dollars — before the dog days of August arrive to claim more cash.

  • Make sure your AC equipment is in top running order, since cooling puts the greatest stress on your summer energy bills. A professional “tune-up” could save money and the misery of a breakdown on the hottest days.
  • Use or get a programmable thermostat, which can automatically coordinate temperatures in your home with your living patterns, reducing air conditioning when you’re away and moderating it at night. Just this alone can reduce your cooling bills by 10 percent.
  • Use ceiling fans to circulate air, making you feel cooler so you can raise the temperature on the AC a notch or two. Turn the fan off when you leave the room, however, because fans only help cool people, not rooms.
  • If your AC unit is older than 12 years, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR-qualified model could cut your cooling costs by 30%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Make sure your central air conditioning system or window unit is not too large. That could impair performance because of frequent on/off cycling.
  • Buy an AC unit with the highest Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or SEER level you can afford. By federal law, it must be at least a 13 SEER. The money you save going forward will help cover the upfront costs.

US heat map for July 21 shows heat alerts moving eastward.

  • Clean or replace Central Air system filters monthly – and do the same for window unit filters even more frequently – to allow free air flow.
  • Plug leaks around windows with weather stripping and caulking, which is just as important in the summer as in the winter.
  • Draw curtains and shade on the sunny side of your home. (This is a no-brainer, so we’ll add another tip of our own: Keep the thermostat at 78 or higher. It will still feel very cool in contrast to outside air in the 90s or 100s. And it could save you a bundle.
  • Use energy efficient light bulbs, like CFLs and LEDs, to reduce your electricity use, and to tamp down the heat from incandescent light bulbs, which emit 90 percent of their energy as heat instead of light.
  • Clean the coils of your refrigerator (hadn’t thought about that recently, eh?) to reduce energy bills and extend the life of the appliance. A fridge, because it runs around the clock, accounts for about 10 percent of your total home electricity bill. If your fridge dates to the 1980s, you can save around $100 a year by replacing it with an ENERGY STAR model.
  • Shift energy-intensive household chores to off-peak hours – nights, mornings and weekends – when there is less strain on the power grid. Operating dishwashers and washing machines at these times with full loads will get you the most for your energy dollars because providers charge lower rates for off-peak use.



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