Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and spring time is in the air. The spring season will transition to summer in a few months and warm weather will be here to stay. The summer months usually mean more exercise, more dirty clothes and some additional cool air and cooling off. Anyone who pays a monthly energy bill knows—expenses add up. They oftentimes come from the unlikeliest of places. Extreme weather seasons like summer or winter are the most likely to raise expenses due to the energy needed to keep the home at a comfortable temperature. We’ve got all the solutions you need to save money and run a home that is energy efficient.
Disclaimer: If you have health issues or any medical condition that might be impacted by heat sensitivity, it is not worth the risk to your health for a few minor savings.
Preparing for Spring and Summer
People are often concerned that saving money on energy in the spring and summer means their home is constantly hot or warm. They rather accept the expenses than be stuck inside of a warm house. This thinking is incorrect. You can save energy and money in the house while maintaining an enjoyable temperature.
Pro-Tip: Running an energy audit will really get you off to the right start in warmer months. These cost anywhere from $300 to $500 depending on the size of the home, but a professional run-through will give you the best indication of how your home performs energy-wise.
Quick tips for the home:
- If you live in an areas that cools down at night, open doors and windows for cooling instead of using the air conditioner. Use this method at night while sleeping. When you wake up, shut all the openings in the home and you’ll capture some of the cool energy.
- Treatments and coverings for windows will keep heat from getting inside of the home.
- Set your home temperature as high as possible during the summer. The recommended temperature is 78° F, but you want as little difference as possible between indoor and outdoor temperatures.
- If you leave the house, allow the home to remain warmer than usual. There is no reason to leave the air conditioning on in an empty house when no one is there to enjoy it.
- Colder settings also cost money when an air conditioner is first turned on. They won’t actually cool the house any faster, so these are unnecessary expenses.
When you’re taking a shower or bath, use the bathroom fan to remove excess heat and humidity from the home. Laundry rooms also benefit from a ventilation area. Make sure bathroom and kitchen fans vent towards the outside of the home, not just towards the attic.
Remember to take short showers instead of baths. Even better: If you can take a shower without scolding hot water
All About the Fans
- Ceiling fans are capable of raising the thermostat setting by four degrees fahrenheit without any reduction in comfort.
- If you leave the room, turn off your fans. Fans are meant to cool people, not rooms. Fans that are left on will use electricity and energy.
How to Heat and Cool the Home
The summer months aren’t the only time you’ll need to follow tried and true measures for heating or cooling devices. These measures can be relevant all year round, especially during the winter months when things get chilly and you really want to stay warm.
On average, heating and cooling takes up half of the energy used in a home. An HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) unit is probably the piece of equipment consuming the most energy, but insulation and air tightness influence how much a unit runs.
Remember: Never use non-traditional methods for heating. This includes: Ovens, stoves, microwaves, and grills. This is a dangerous practice because these tools are not meant for heating purposes.
What You Need to Know:
- Clean vents frequently with vacuums and brooms.
- Maintain a clean air conditioner and furnace filter for efficient heating and cooling systems, and update these devices regularly.
- Your furnace and air conditioners should be inspected every five years by a professional.
- Like we discussed in the summer and spring section, ceiling fans can improve the efficiency of heating and cooling systems. Utilize them!
- Make sure all vents have space to do their job. Don’t allow drapes, furniture, or rugs to block their circulation.
- Change filters once a month during cooling and heating seasons.
- Supply registers and returns should never be blocked or closed off.
- Hire a qualified technician to service the HVAC once a year.
- Insulation in your attic will increase the efficiency of furnaces and air conditioners.
- Keep hot air out of the home by sealing cracks and openings to prevent warm air from leaking in.
- Don’t ever run air conditioners and evaporative coolers at the same time. This forces AC units to work twice as hard to get rid of humidity via the cooler.
Thermostat Rule: It’s suggested that thermostats should be set at 78° F in the summer and 68° F in the winter.
Pro-Tip: Placing deciduous trees outside of windows on the south side of a home will provide shade in the summer and bring sunlight in the winter. These might be costly to plant, but foliage will bring a number of benefits to your home and property.
Extra Quick Tip: Instead of throwing away an air filter, you can vacuum it once a month and spray it with Endust or a similar product that will restore the dust-catching function of the filter. When you do this, the filter can be used two to three additional times.
Ways to Wash: Washing Machine Tips
Two of the biggest expenditures of energy in a home are the washing machine and the dishwasher. These devices should only be used when necessary, and they should always be filled with a full load—never run a half empty washing machine. In particular, 90 percent of energy used during a laundry process comes via heating water. Avoid hot cycles, and use cold to warm water.
Clothes and Dishes:
- Lower the temperature on the water heater to 120° F. If you can’t do this yourself, a service person can help.
- All areas surrounding water and water heaters should be appropriately insulated.
- Let dishes drip dry and avoid using the drying cycle.
- Conserve water by always using full loads for clothes and dishes.
- Hang clothes to dry.
- Empty the lint trap every time you use the dryer.
- Heavy and light clothing should be dried separately to be the most effective. This includes sheets, heavy blankets, towels, et cetera.
Pro Tip One: If clothes are hung right when they are dry, you don’t have to worry about ironing. You can even hang clothes with a slight dampness to them. If you’re late to the clothes drying process, put a damp towel inside of the dryer and run it for a few minutes to get wrinkles out.
Pro Tip Two: Hanging clothes to dry in the wintertime is a natural humidifier for a dry room.
Water Heater Help
Water heaters are known to take the second highest amount of energy in a home. Reducing the amount of money that you spend on a water heater can save you a great amount of money.
What to do here:
- Set water heaters to 120° F and remove sediment build up by draining a few gallons from the bottom of tanks every year.
- Low-flow shower heads can be installed to save money.
- Always repair leaks and dripping faucets as soon as they are noticed.
- Make sure well pumps are working properly and install timers on pool pumps. These use a lot of power to control run times.
A Quick Rundown on the Percentage of Energy Used in a Home
- Space heating uses 49% of energy in a home
- Appliances and lighting use 23% of energy in a home
- Water Heating uses 16% of energy in a home
- Air conditioning uses 16% of energy in a home
- Refrigerator uses 5% of energy in a home
All of the Lights
The most obvious energy tip for lights is to simply turn them off whenever they aren’t in use. This sounds like a given, but you’d be surprised how much energy is wasted from lights being left on, often due to young children who aren’t following the rules. If you have older children living in the home who have graduated from high school or college, you can task them with the responsibility of paying for the lighting bill and they’ll surely make sure energy is saved.
- Replace old light bulbs that are using up energy.
- Compact fluorescent light bulbs reduce energy by up to 75%. They are a little pricey, but you can simply replace bulbs in the house that are used the most instead of replacing every bulb in the home.
- Use home automation devices to set lights on timers and monitor their use.
Fun fact: Placing a lamp near a thermostat can often affect how your furnace or air conditioner will run. Thermostats sense heat produced for lamps, which changes their airflow. Always remember to place a lamp away from a thermostat.
- Have a regular schedule for professional maintenance for cooling equipment like air conditioners, evaporative coolers, and heat pumps.
- Vacuum the home often to remove dust build up. Make sure that furniture and other objects do not block vents.
- Be light on how many high-heat activities you employ. This includes running computers,, dishwashers, and hot devices like curling irons or hair dryers. (Stereos and TV’s also add heat to a home.)
- Caulk and weatherstripping is a good way to seal air around doors and windows not to leak.
- If you’re cooking, use a microwave instead of a stove or oven. This saves energy and won’t heat the home just because they are being used.
- Unplug devices that don’t need to plugged in. Devices that plugged in without being used drain energy.
The tips in this guide can be applied at any time, but if you’re moving into a new home or replacing old appliances, plan ahead by getting a home and supplies that are energy efficient. With a little bit of foresight and proper monitoring of your energy-use habits, you’ll be surprised by how much money you are able to save.