Q: Everyone talks about ways to save energy in the winter with heating bills. Got any tips for how to save energy this summer? It’s all well and good to talk about leaving your windows open when it’s a beautiful 70 degrees outside, but since it only stays that way for about a week before it hits 90 for a good three months, what can I do then?
A: Cooling off in the summer has come a long way from the days of my childhood. Back when I was a kid, we used to hang out all day in the local ice cream shop because they had central air conditioning, and we went through those colored ices that comes in plastic sleeves (you know, the ones you have to rip open with your teeth) like they were life support. Couple that with late-afternoon trips through the sprinkler and you had your summer energy-savings program in order. These days, though, with central air conditioning, summer cooling bills can easily skyrocket as high as your winter bills. Here’s a few easy ways to shave off some dollars.
Just like I told you in the winter, the key to home heating and cooling efficiency is insulation, insulation, insulation. It’s important to make sure the walls and windows of your home aren’t leaking air. Just like your refrigerator shouldn’t be left open to cool the whole kitchen, your house shouldn’t be cooling the yard. Buy a cheap roll of weatherstripping tape, and seal up those doors and windows. Also, make sure to clean the filters on your air conditioning vents at least once a month — this will help your air conditioning be more efficient.
Next, if you have fans in your house, use them. If you don’t, considering installing a few. Fans can go a long way to cooling down a room and take up a lot of less energy than having your air conditioning on full blast. Having fans in your house allows you to program your thermostat up to 4 degrees higher because of the air circulation they provide.
Also, try line-drying your clothes instead of using the dryer. When you use the dryer, clean the lint trap after each use, and make sure your dryer is set to the proper moisture setting. Often, dryers run for much longer than they need to get clothes dry.
Another thing you can do is to try not to use your dryer or your oven or other appliances that can heat up the house during the hottest time of the day. This makes my kitchen absolutely unbearable, and the only way to catch a break is to crank up the AC. Bad idea. Try doing your cooking in the cooler morning hours or after the sun goes down if you can.
I know this one’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie — turn those appliances off! This can definitely save you a bundle when done right. That means not just putting your computer in sleep mode, but turning it off completely. The same goes for your TV, stereo and any other home electronics. Even better — if you can, unplug them. This can save you 10-20 percent on your yearly energy bill. Try hooking up all the electronics at your desk to one power strip and switching it off at night.
Finally, why not keep some of those plastic sleeve ice pops handy as a last resort? Or better yet, hearken back to the days of yore and make your own juice pops with these nifty little trays. They’re a lot cheaper than keeping your air conditioning on high, and in my humble opinion, they work even better. Enjoy your summer.