Spring Tips to Help you Keep Cool and Save Energy This Summer
Summer is just around the corner and in many areas of the country, from May to September, it means a sequence of hot days and warm nights, with high humidity and occasional heavy precipitation. Soon enough, you might need to crank up your air conditioner just to get some relief from the heat.
Now consider that in the typical home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, 40% of the overall energy consumption goes towards heating and cooling. If most of the money you spend in energy bills goes towards powering your air conditioning unit, using it often to keep cool during the hot summer days can significantly impact your finances.
There are, however a few things you can start doing in the spring that will help you keep cool and save energy this summer.
Gardening for Savings
Planting trees and tall bushes on the west and south sides of your home will provide shade and keep your home cool during the summer. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, three properly placed trees could save you between $100 and $250 a year in energy costs. Select deciduous species for the west side because they lose their leaves on the winter months and you can take advantage of the sun heat when it is cold. Evergreens are more suitable for the windy side of your home, and help shield it from the frigid winter winds. Below is a link to a great video about gardening for energy savings:
Dressing Your Windows
There are many energy saving window treatment options to choose from and according to the U.S. Department of energy, the savings can be quite substantial. Window blinds, horizontal or vertical, are quite effective in reducing heat gain. Medium colored drapes with a white plastic backing can reduce heat gain by 33%, the DOE reports, and they stay cooler in the summer because their pleats and folds lose heat through convection. Shades are also an inexpensive and simple way to reduce heat gain during the hot days. Shades, drapes and blinds should always remain closed during the day, especially in windows that are directly exposed to sunlight,
Window awnings add architectural interest to your home and can reduce heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows.
Get out of the Kitchen
If you don’t have a microwave, consider this. They are, by far, the most energy efficient cooking appliance. Microwave cooking also keeps you from using the oven and stove for long periods of time. Conventional stoves and ovens tend to heat up your home and put an extra burden on your air conditioning system.
Don’t like microwaves? Consider planning your meals ahead and using a slow cooker. You can also use other small appliances for cooking such as a toaster, electric griddle or waffle iron.
Hang your Clothes to Dry
Running the dryer can contribute to increasing the temperature in your home. Take advantage of clear, sunny and breezy days to dry your laundry outside on a clothing line. There are those that are not too fond of line drying because some pieces, like towels, don’t come out as fluffy or soft as they would from a dryer. That can easily be solved by running almost dry towels for a few minutes through a very short cycle in the dryer. Other garments can be steamed or steam-ironed after drying in the sun for freshness and softness.
Get a Home Energy Audit
If your Air Conditioning system isn’t working at top efficiency because your house lacks proper insulation and air sealing, or your ducts are leaky, uninsulated , dirty or unbalanced your home will be very uncomfortable and your energy bills much higher than they should. You might even think you need a bigger unit.
According to Steven Long, a certified energy conservation expert from Dr. Energy Saver Charlotte, when a home is properly air sealed and insulated, and the ducts are clean, sealed and balanced, homeowners often find out that their current system is actually bigger than they need, and they can actually downsize it!
Spring is a great time to have an energy audit performed at your home and to tackle energy efficiency improvement projects such as attic insulation, air sealing, crawl space sealing, ductwork, and HVAC upgrades. Your entire house can be more comfortable and energy efficient before the temperature rises to the point that you need your air conditioner.
Energy efficient improvements pay for themselves in terms of energy savings, but you can also take advantage of tax exemptions, and other local incentive programs to help you pay for them.