Can You Take the Heat? With These Energy Efficiency Tips, You Can!

Keep cool this summer with energy efficiency tips that will help you save money and the planet.

A person adjusting a digital thermostat control in their home.
A person adjusting a digital thermostat control in their home.
Credit: Eric Perry/Consumers Energy via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

This blog was authored by NRDC’s Sarah Street.  

As the climate continues to warm, days of extreme heat are becoming more and more common each summer. And with higher temperatures comes higher energy use, increasing stress on our power grid—and your wallet too. But don’t sweat it! By implementing just a few easy tips and switches, you can beat the heat and keep your energy bill from rising to extremes as high as the thermometer readings.

Energy efficiency helps to avoid or reduce energy waste so that you can run your AC, a load of laundry, the vacuum, and turn on your lights all while using less energy. That means more money in your wallet, less strain on the grid and infrastructure, and a healthier planet. The benefits are countless.

So, what can you do this summer to cash in on the benefits of energy efficiency?

Heat Pumps are the hot new thing — and that’s pretty cool.

But why talk about an appliance with “heat” right in the name in preparation for summer? Because this game-changing technology is a cleaner and more affordable option for both heating and cooling. 

Heat pumps cool your home when it’s hot out by pumping unwanted heat outdoors. But what makes them so revolutionary is that when autumn sweeps in and temperatures cool, you can reverse the process, pumping heat from the outdoors into your home to keep it warm and toasty. Did you know, a typical household’s energy bill is around $1,900 annually, with almost half going to heating and cooling? Heat pumps can reduce your electricity use for heating by approximately 65 percent compared to electric resistance heating. In the summer, high-efficiency heat pumps dehumidify better than standard central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage. With lower energy usage comes lower bills, and a heat pump can save the average homeowner over $500 a year.

Planning ahead as your furnace nears the end of its life can help you make the efficient choice, rather than scrambling if it breaks down in the winter. That way, you have the flexibility to purchase a heat pump rather than a traditional AC and furnace, helping to reduce your carbon footprint, lessen stress on the grid, improve the air quality inside and outside of your home, and in the long run save yourself some cash.

Don’t let leaks make you lose out!

This summer, get serious about sealing. Did you know, one company’s home energy audits find that many houses exchange air at 3–4 times the rate that is necessary, which is like having an extra window open in your house 365 days a year. That means the cool air inside your home is quite literally "slipping through the cracks," wasting energy and your money.

Close that “window” and you can score potential energy savings ranging from 5 percent to 30 percent per year — and your home will generally be much more comfortable. Sealing gaps that let your cool air out with weather-stripping or caulking often costs less than $100, meaning you could save money almost immediately. 

Switch out old appliances for those labeled ENERGY STAR.

Appliances with an Energy Star label meet the EPA’s voluntary energy efficiency specifications and using them can save the average household $450 a year. Plus, their environmental and health impacts are outsized. In 2020, Energy Star’s emissions reductions were equivalent to more than 5 percent of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions and the program’s avoided air pollution was responsible for an estimated $7 - 17 billion in public health benefits

During the summer, saving this much energy will leave more money in your pockets to keep cool, so you can chill over your bill. 

Here are some examples: 

  • An ENERGY STAR certified ceiling fan — a must for the summer — is 60 percent more efficient than a conventional fan. 
  • An ENERGY STAR certified clothes washer will drench you in benefits, using about 20 percent less energy and about 30 percent less water than regular washers and saving you about $550 in energy costs over their lifetime. 
Become a fan of your ceiling fan!

Speaking of ENERGY STAR certified ceiling fans, put them to use! Fans keep air circulating and create a chilling wind effect, making the room much more comfortable and letting you rely on your AC less. The evaporative effect of a ceiling fan can make a room feel up to 10 degrees cooler, allowing you to crank your thermostat higher. Each degree that you raise your thermostat can help you save up to 5 percent in cooling costs.

But remember, fans keep people cool, not rooms, so make sure to switch the fan off when you leave.

A fun fact you likely don’t know is that you can use your ceiling fan in the winter too, just by switching the direction it spins! Make sure your blades are turning counterclockwise for summer to pull warm air up and push cool air down and switch them to turn clockwise in winter for the opposite effect.

Don’t slack on your HVAC

If you haven’t thought about your HVAC system in a while, you probably should. Keeping your system properly maintained can ensure the system is running most efficiently.  

First, it’s important to clear any thick vegetation or debris from around your AC unit to allow for proper airflow. It’s also imperative to make sure a dirty air filter isn’t making your system work harder. A dirty filter can increase costs, damage your equipment, and possibly even lead to premature failure. Make sure to check your filter every three months to see if it needs to be cleaned or replaced.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that “it is virtually certain” that 2024 will be a top 10 warmest year on record, and a 99.1percent chance it will be a top 5 year. But that doesn’t mean you have to sizzle in the heat—or burn a hole in your wallet trying to keep cool. 

Using energy more efficiently is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions, maximize cost savings, create jobs, enhance grid reliability, and meet growing energy demand. NRDC is committed to making the most energy efficient practices and technologies the standard; implementing them in your own homes and businesses is where you come in. Together, we can create an energy-efficient future with healthier people, a healthier planet, and healthier bank accounts to boot. 

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