Sweltering hot days make it harder to keep your home cool, straining air conditioning systems and energy budgets. Below are some simple tips to boost comfort and save on electric bills during the sultriest of days:
- Change or clean your air conditioner (AC) filter monthly during the cooling season.
- Ensure air can move freely around the AC unit coils. Remove surrounding leaves and plant overgrowth.
- Use ceiling and oscillating fans. Moving air makes the temperature feel cooler and allows for a higher thermostat setting while maintaining comfort. For each 1-degree increase in the thermostat setting, cooling costs can be lowered by about 3 percent.
- Avoid unnecessary trips in and out of the house, which let in hot air.
- Turn off lights, televisions, and computers when not in use.
- Close drapes and shades during the day.
- Plan to do hot work — laundry and cooking — during cooler morning and evening hours.
- Keep your kitchen cooler by cooking with a microwave or grilling outdoors.
- Make sure heat-producing appliances like televisions and lamps are away from the thermostat. They increase the temperature near the thermostat and cause the AC to run more than needed.
“There are several low-cost measures that can yield big energy savings,” says EEC Executive Director Molly Hall. “Replace traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Incandescent bulbs waste 95 percent of their energy in heat; CFLs burn cooler, use only a fourth of the energy, and come in many styles and color temperatures.”
Other low-cost suggestions include:
- Install a programmable thermostat. Leave it on a higher temperature while away, and set it to cool the house 30 minutes before returning home.
- Seal air leaks. Weather stripping and caulking are inexpensive ways to improve efficiency and cut energy costs.
- Ventilate the attic, and check insulation. If you can see the ceiling joists in your attic, consider adding insulation.
Increased electric demands can also place a severe strain on your home’s electrical system — a dangerous shock and fire hazard. Frequent circuit breaker trips or flickering lights, TV screens, or computer monitors are signs of an overloaded electrical system or faulty wiring that should be checked immediately by a professional.