Live Green and Earn Points


Keep Cool This Summer With Less A/C

By Sebrina Zerkus Smith |
With summer comes higher electric bills. But you don’t have to suffer, because there are ways to improve your A/C's performance without breaking your energy budget.

A calculator to estimate your water consumption at home.

It is officially hot here in Houston, and across the U.S. too. And with the heat comes higher electric bills -- and the dreaded, soggy humidity. But you don’t have to throw up your hands in surrender this summer. There are ways to improve your A/Cs performance without breaking your energy budget.

Summer is always a mixed blessing here in the deep, tropical South. Everything is in bloom, there are delicious, fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes to eat and the pool is open! But with the heat comes the humidity. And staying cool in a humid environment without air conditioning can seem like an impossible task. Humidity is the very thing that makes summer so unbearable.

But you can feel cooler even is you live in a humid climate. You just need a little planning, and a lot of iced tea!

Give your A/C some help.
Reduce heat transfer by increasing insulation. Your home might be under-insulated, which can make your A/C work harder and cool less. Adding insulation to your attic will help keep the cool air in-- and the hot air out-- of you your home. And, when winter rolls around, the added insulation will help cut your heating bills, too, by doing just the reverse -- keeping warm air in and colder air out. There are many ways to increase you attic’s insulation, like adding bulk insulation to your existing insulation. Or, for instance, Mr. Lite Green just installed an attic door barrier for us. It’s a device that covers the attic entrance and in effect seals it off. It has a zipper that encloses the device, which gives attic access when needed. The temp in our house dropped by 5 degrees after he installed it (it took about 20 minutes) so we were able to raise our thermostat temp by several degrees as well. I can’t wait to see how much we saved when the next electric bill comes in! Find out about attic insulation and DIY insulation projects at Home

Keep it clean
A dirty A/C filter can make your unit work harder, too. And just think of all the yucky stuff spewing out of your A/C registers and ducts when your filter is dirty. Ewwww! So keep your filters clean. There are good choices available now for reusable filters. They’re eco-friendly, and take only a few minutes to clean. We use the EnviroGreen 8. It’s sturdy, washable, made from 100% recycled material and is completely recyclable on the back end. It should last about 5 years according to the manufacturer. EnviroGreen also make reusable furnace filters. Find it at The Air Filter Store.

Feel cooler with fans.
While fans don’t actually lower the room temp, they will make you feel cooler, which might let you set your A/C thermostat at a higher temperature. Ceiling fans and portable fans keep air moving over your skin, making you feel cooler. Be sure to check your ceiling fans settings if you use them. Remember that there is a little switch at the base of the motor that controls the direction of the blades. Summer settings will pull hot air up and away from living areas, while the winter setting will push warm air down toward living areas. You don’t want to get that setting backwards! Check manufacturer’s instructions for your fan for details.

Stop the heat wave.
Turn off all unused appliances like TVs, computers and incandescent lights. They probably generate more heat that you realize, so turning them off when not in use will not only make the your house cooler, it will save energy on two fronts. Your A/C will run less, and your appliances will use less. Plus if you’re not staring at the TV or the computer, you might want to get outside and bike to the park or better yet, go visit a friend -- let their A/C do the work for a while!

Remember the peak hour rule.
Use major appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine only in off-peak hours. Off-peak hours are late night or early morning hours when your community is using less energy. Not only will running appliances during non-peak hours save you money since some electric companies charge a reduced rate for energy used during these times, your A/C won’t be battling the sun’s heat, so you’ll use less energy all around.

Cash For Caulkers
Check all the weather stripping and caulk in and around your home and update or replace where needed. Weather stripping can make a big difference in how your A/C performs. Just like insulation, caulk and weather stripping help you retain cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter. If you can feel hot air around a door or window, it needs additional weather stripping. Every warm breeze you feel coming in is just like a dollar bill going out. Loss of cool air through improper whether stripping is one of the biggest summer electricity wasters. Plus, the U.S. House has recently passed a bill called “Cash For Caulkers” that initiates a program to reimburse homeowners for weather stripping upgrades they make this year. So you could save money on your taxes just by doing something to lessen your electricity usage. Now I call that a win!

Making even a few modest home energy improvements will save big on your energy bill this summer -- and for years to come.

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