Photo credit: centralasian/Creative Commons
This guest post was written by Denise Durrett, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The dog days of summer are right around the corner and homeowners are looking for ways to stay cool, without breaking the bank on energy costs. The average home spends $2,200 each year on utility bills, with cooling accounting for almost 20 percent of it. Depending on where you live, replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with equipment that's earned the ENERGY STAR can cut your annual energy bill by more than $200.
ENERGY STAR offers the following simple cooling tips to help beat the heat, save money on utility bills, and reduce greenhouse gases in the fight against climate change:
- Have bright ideas. Change out incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices. ENERGY STAR qualified lighting not only uses less energy, it also produces about 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting, so cooling bills will be reduced, too.
- Get programmed for savings. If you have a programmable thermostat, program it to work around your family's summer schedule--set it a few degrees higher (such as 78 degrees) when no one is home, so your cooling system isn't cooling an empty house.
- Keep your cool. Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room make sure to turn off the fan.
- Throw some shade to the sun. Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun's rays from overheating the interior of your home. If you can, move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade.
- Give your oven a break. Use a microwave instead of oven to cook, as appropriate. Ovens take longer to cook food and can make your house warmer, requiring your AC system to turn on to keep the house at a comfortable temperature.
- Filter in savings. Check your HVAC system's air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it. A good rule is to change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool--wasting energy. Also, remember to have your HVAC system serviced annually to ensure it's running at optimum efficiency for money and energy savings.
- Seal and save. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home's duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Sealing air leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping will have a significant impact on improving your comfort and reducing energy bills. If you are adding insulation to your home, be sure to seal air leaks first, to ensure you get the best performance from your insulation. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Also, make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls, and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.
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