This blog is authored by my colleague Ashley Leung.
With people continuing to spend more time at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19, residential energy use has been rising in the United States and so have electric bills. With summer beginning and temperatures climbing, turning on the air conditioning could increase energy costs even more. But there are inexpensive and easy ways you can reduce your energy consumption and stay cool, too.
Here are a few cost-saving energy efficiency tips to try at home.
Wield Your Windows
One simple strategy is to keep curtains and blinds closed during the day when it’s hottest. Heat gain through the windows can greatly contribute to the indoor temperature, especially in rooms that get a lot of sun or if your windows are older and less energy efficient. If your air conditioning isn’t on, open a window when it’s not too hot outside. An open window and a fan can help create a breeze, which makes a room feel more comfortable. Plus, enjoying a breath of fresh air can feel great.
Feel the Breeze
Your ceiling fan can help a room feel up to 10 degrees cooler while using just 10 percent of the energy of a central air conditioner. The movement of air helps to increase the rate at which heat is displaced from your body due to the wind chill effect. If you use the fan and A/C in combination, you save money because you don’t have to crank up your air conditioner as high to stay cool. Set your fan to run in the counterclockwise direction so it pulls up cooler air from the floor and blows it back down on you, creating a breeze to keep you feeling comfortable. Just remember to turn off the fan (and the lights) when you leave the room, since there’s no benefit to creating a breeze in an empty room.
Energy-Saving Home Improvement Projects
If you’re done with puzzles or bread-making and want more projects to keep you busy, consider home improvement fixes to improve your home’s energy efficiency and make it feel more comfortable.
Have a tube of caulk gathering dust in a drawer or toolbox? Now is a great time to put it to use and seal crack and gaps that may be letting cooled air escape. If you add up all the gaps around the windows and doors in an average U.S. house, you’d have the equivalent of a 3-foot by 3-foot hole in the wall. The Department of Energy has a list of potential cracks or gaps—including door and window frames, electrical outlets, wall or window-mounted air conditioners, and mail slots. Sealing around these areas means your home will be less drafty and your cooled (or heated) air will stay inside, keeping you more comfortable year-round.
It’s also a great time to do basic maintenance on your heating and cooling systems—following some easy to-dos will keep them running efficiently, save money, lower emissions, and extend the life of the equipment. Make sure your furnace and air conditioner filters are clean, so your equipment isn’t working harder than it needs to be. Some filters can be cleaned and reused, but others must be replaced entirely so check the maintenance requirements for your specific models. And when officials deem it safe, consider calling an HVAC professional to do an onsite evaluation of your system for further improvements.
If you need to replace light bulbs, choose LEDs. They use up to 90 percent less energy to deliver the same amount of light as the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, and last 10 to 25 times longer. The average home has 40 sockets so replacing even just a few incandescent or halogen bulbs with LEDs will help.
Watch Your TV’s Energy Use
Many people are spending more time watching television to stay up to date on the news or catching up on shows for a little escapism. You can save energy by streaming content on your smart TV or devices like Roku or Google Chromecast instead of your video game console, which may use up to 30 times more energy!
Turning down your TV’s brightness can also help reduce energy consumption and put less strain on your eyes. Avoid settings like “vivid,” which use a lot more energy to produce an overly bright picture. To have the TV automatically adjust the brightness to the level of light in the room, activate the automatic brightness control (ABC) sensor. And of course, remember to turn off the TV if you’re not actively watching it.
Reduce Heat and Humidity
You also can keep your home cooler by generating less heat and humidity in the first place with these steps:
- Turn on the bathroom fan when you shower or take a bath.
- Cooking some summer veggies? Throw them in a pan on the stovetop or on a grill instead of firing up the oven to bake or roast them
- Let your hair air dry instead of using a hair dryer.
- Use heat-generating appliances (such as your dishwasher, or clothes washer and dryer) early in the morning or in the evening, when it’s cooler.
While these may seem like small changes, they add up and make a difference in your home–and on your energy bill. You can easily make your space feel more comfortable using already available options, or that you can easily find the next time you go out shopping for essential items. Stay cool and stay safe!