As summer approaches in the Sun City, energy bills will rise along with the temperature, and knowing how to cool your home in a way that won’t break the bank is — dare we say — even more important than knowing where to get the best raspas in town.
Making a few updates to a home’s insulation and AC units can make a big impact on energy costs, especially for larger homes. Buying Energy Star appliances will save on utilities, but there are also cost-saving methods you can adopt with the appliances you already own.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are five simple ways to keep the cool in, keep the heat out and save money doing both.
Utilize wind and windows
When night falls and the temperature drops, the U.S. Dept. of Energy recommends turning off your cooling system and opening your windows. In the morning, windows and blinds should be shut to trap cold air inside.
Effective window coverings are equally important to preventing heat build-up in the home. In fact, when completely closed and lowered on a sunny window, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by about 45 percent.
Ventilation is the least expensive and most energy-efficient way to cool any building, notes the U.S. Dept. of Energy.
Be thermostat vigilant
When you leave the house, remember to lower the thermostat, allowing the house to go uncooled while you’re away. However, be sure to set the thermostat to a temperature that’s comfortable for any pets.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy recommends lowering the thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit only when you are at home and need cooling. The department also aims to the bust the myth that drastically lowering the temperature, say to 58 degrees, will cool the house down faster — It will not. Setting the thermostat to an excessively low temperature only adds to your energy bill.
Additionally, lamps and TV sets should not be placed near thermostats due to the fact that thermostats sense heat from these appliances, which can then cause AC units to run longer than intended.
For those with a routine schedule, a programmable thermostat can automatically change the temperature during the times you expect to be out.
Know how best to use your fans
Because fans cool individuals, and not the space within a home, by creating a wind chill effect, having them on in an empty room is a waste of energy. Reversely, fans can also save on energy costs when used where they’re needed most.
When combined with air conditioning, a ceiling fan can allow you to raise the thermostat about 4 degrees Fahrenheit with no reduction in comfort, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy.
Fans should also be used to remove heat and humidity from bathrooms after a shower, in kitchens after cooking, and in laundry rooms after washing and drying. Fans can be used for spot ventilation throughout the home.
Maintain cooling systems
Reading the owner’s manual for your air conditioner or evaporative cooler is paramount to know how best to operate and maintain the unit.
Replacing a dirty or clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by up to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy.
It’s recommended to clean or replace your cooling system’s filter or filters every one to two months during the cooling season. However, filters may need to be replaced more often if the air conditioner is in constant use, is subjected to dusty conditions, or you have fur-bearing pets in the house.
To ensure your cooling system is running at its maximum efficiency, schedule regular maintenance with a certified HVAC technician.
Be aware of the devices that generate heat
Only about 10 percent to 15 percent of the electricity that incandescent lights consume results in light: the rest is turned into heat, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. This means that the more lights that are on in the house, the hotter it’s going to be inside.
It’s best to install lighting that runs cooler. LED light bulbs emit very little heat, unlike incandescent bulbs which release 90 percent of their energy as heat and CFLs which release about 80 percent of their energy as heat.
Other devices that add heat to the home when plugged in and on include TVs, stereos, computers, dyers, dishwashers, ovens, curling irons, and hair dryers. Use of these devices should be kept to a minimum to keep the space cool.
On the hottest days this summer, the U.S. Dept. of Energy recommends you avoid using the oven and instead cook on the stove, in a microwave or on a grill outside — A top tier excuse to throw a barbecue.
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