As the summer heat begins to rise, your electric bill usually follows right along with it. Warmer temperatures mean air conditioners run all day and all night, and that can add up to some hefty utility bills.
There are ways to stay cool without going broke, and here are some of our most practical tips:
1. Show Your A/C Some TLC
Air conditioning can be up to 50% of your electricity bill, and possibly even more during the summer months. Some easy maintenance steps with your air conditioner can help it work much more efficiently.
First, change the filter so that air flows properly through your A/C unit (and bring some allergy relief to the pollen-sufferers in your house).
Second, be sure your outside condensing unit is free of leaves, yard clippings, and other debris.
Finally, a periodic air conditioning tune-up will ensure proper coolant levels in your system, drains are clear, and your system is operating properly.
TIP: Get more A/C cooling tips from our HVAC Experts with our article “9 Experts Reveal How to Keep Your A/C Running Cold this Summer.”
2. Keep it Cool
You’ll spend less money on air conditioning if your home is cooler inside to begin with. Keep the heat outside by covering windows during the day to block out the sunlight. Use landscaping to block the sun, as well, by planting bushes or vines in spaces that block the windows.
In addition, energy efficient window treatments such as blinds, awnings, and window tinting, especially on east and west facing windows, can significantly reduce UV ray penetration and help keep your home cool.
3. Move Your Home Office
If you are working or schooling from home, you may have designated a certain area of your home as the office. You’ll have the most energy efficient home office if you set it up on the north or east side of your home. You’ll avoid the afternoon sun that can heat up rooms in your house. That way you won’t feel the need to kick on the A/C every afternoon.
If you can’t move your home office, make sure you have a ceiling fan or a portable fan in your home office.
4. Use a Smart Thermostat
If you’ve got a new programmable WiFi thermostat such as a Nest or Ecobee, set it so your home is warmer when you’re gone. Also, make your evening temperature warmer, too. These smart thermostats will actually learn your cooling preferences and your patterns. Plus, some electricity plans come with free smart WiFi thermostats or Google home hub.
Consider saving money by raising the temperature on your thermostat to 76* rather than 72* during the summer. If you’re comfortable in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, the home is cool enough. Raising the temperature by even two or three degrees can save you almost 10 percent on your cooling bill each year.
5. Use Ceiling Fans
When the temperature’s warm but not sweltering, using fans can be just as effective as using air conditioning, and will cost significantly less. Install ceiling fans in rooms you spend a significant amount of time in, such as bedrooms and living rooms, and use portable fans for other parts of the house.
Keep in mind that fans cool people, not rooms, so turn them off when you leave. Also, be sure that your ceiling fans are circulating the right way (as you look up at them, counterclockwise in summer and clockwise in winter.)
6. Check Your Electricity Plan
When’s the last time you checked your electricity plan? Perhaps your electricity plan has expired and you’re paying higher month-to-month electric rates. Researching your electricity provider options can save you a lot of money each month, for just a few minutes’ research.
By checking the available options, you can find which companies offer cheaper electricity rates, and you may find some that offer a bonus or more flexible plan than the one you have now. Comparing your current plan with the others available in your community once or twice every year is always a good idea, and can almost always save you money.
Tip: Learn more about shopping for your electricity plan with our Guide to Shopping for Electricity in Texas
7. Change your Lightbulbs
If you still have incandescent bulbs, take a few minutes the next time you’re at the hardware store and pick up a few LED bulbs.
LEDs will help keep your house cooler house cooler since they don’t generate as much heat as incandescent bulbs. Plus, LEDs last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours and use up to 90% less power than incandescent bulbs. When shopping, don’t go for the cheapest option. A little more upfront for a good LED bulb will give you virtual lifetime of lighting.
If you still have compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs, also known as the swirly light bulbs), replace those and dispose of them properly. CFLs contain mercury, something that no one needs to have in their home air environment.
8. Get Outside
Summer is a great time to enjoy the outdoors with your friends and family. Hit the pool, plan barbecue dinners, and spend mornings and evenings outside. The longer days also allow you to be more active and get in some cardio.
While you’re out having fun, your lights will be off, your appliances won’t be running and your air conditioners can take a break, saving you money in multiple ways. Or head to the movie-theater to check the latest summer blockbuster. You’ll be cool and comfortable in their air conditioning.
9. Change Your Menu
Take advantage of the great variety of foods available in the summer by changing your menu to more plant-based foods and lighter fare. Skip the deep-frying and cook foods on the grill for a different (and healthier) option. Eat more salads, enjoy cold suppers, and ban the oven until summer turns to fall. You’ll keep your home cooler while saving money since you won’t be preheating large appliances.
TIP: Have a backyard swimming pool? After your HVAC, it’s the biggest user of electricity in your home. But you can cut your pool’s power use by 80% of more by switching to a variable speed pool pump.