Summertime is just starting, which means soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the great outdoors. Too bad summer also means higher utility bills. Maybe you already know what a great long-term investment switching to solar energy is, both in terms of saving money on utility bills and cutting your reliance on fossil fuels. But, if you’re not yet ready to go solar, or if you already made the switch but still want to improve your home’s energy efficiency, here are some tips that will help keep your bills bearable in the summer heat.
1. LED Light Bulbs
LED light bulbs are becoming more prevalent in American homes, mainly because they are the very definition of energy efficiency. LEDs use only about 10 percent of the energy as an incandescent bulb. Plus, they produce light at an efficiency rate of around 200 lumens per watt.
Although fluorescent and incandescent bulbs are cheaper than LEDs to purchase, they last only 10-25 percent as long at best. Longer life, higher output, and less energy use make LEDs worth the slight increase in the purchase price. And you can find them at pretty much any hardware store or grocery store.
2. Smart Thermostats
A smart thermostat is a programmable, internet-connected climate control gadget that brings 21st-Century mobile communication technology to your furnace and air conditioner. But they’re not just for gadget geeks. Smart thermostats combine sensing, data processing, and in some cases artificial intelligence, with wireless communication technologies to optimize your comfort preferences while cutting back your monthly energy use automatically.
With a range of control options like digital touchscreens, mobile apps, and integration with voice assistant devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home, smart thermostats make operating your climate control system way more effortless. And because the controls integrate with a smart thermostat app on your phone, you can still make manual adjustments to your home’s climate settings, as needed, any time, from anywhere.
To learn more about two top contenders in the smart thermostat market, you can read our recent Ecobee vs. Nest head-to-head comparison.
3. Efficient Windows
Over time, caulking and weather-stripping around windows deteriorate and begin letting outside air pass through. Windows that aren’t properly curtained or shuttered allow radiant heat to build up indoors. Both of these conditions will spike your heating and cooling bills, especially during the hottest and coldest months of the year—just when your energy use is already going up.
In fact, according to energy.gov, 25-30 percent of the energy you use balancing the temperature in your home comes from heat gained and lost through windows. That’s enough to totally negate the benefits of other efficiency upgrades around the house. Replacing outdated windows is a fine choice, but you can improve their efficiency without replacing them outright. Replacing old caulking and weather-stripping and applying window treatments like blinds, curtains, insulated shades, and window films will dramatically cut the amount of energy wasted by windows.
To learn more different window treatment options, go here.
If you have uninsulated walls or an uninsulated attic, it’s probably having an impact on your home’s energy efficiency. Even if your walls and attic are insulated, unless your home was designed to hit a specific energy efficiency target, adding more insulation will improve things.
Installing new, high-quality insulation can lower your home's heating and cooling costs as well as keep out air drafts around the windows and floorboards. Insulation can likewise keep out moisture that can cause mold growth and make the air in your house colder or hotter than usual.
For tips on adding insulation to an existing home, go here.
5. Service Your Air Conditioning
After an entire winter of sitting dormant through regular cycles of nighttime freezing and daytime thawing, your air conditioner can fall into disrepair. Come spring, it’s common to find cracked and leaky hoses, loose connections, and corroded wiring in and around your AC unit. Structural problems will lead to loss of refrigerant to the point that when you turn on the unit, the air will blow room temperature air instead of refrigerated air.
A well-functioning air conditioner reduces indoor humidity, which lowers the indoor heat index, which reduces the need for further air conditioning. That is to say, when working properly, AC makes the room feel comfortable with less cooling overall. On the other hand, bad AC will pump humid, room temperature air into a room and never create a comfortable environment
By servicing your AC system at the beginning of the warm season, you will save anywhere from five to 15 percent on cooling costs. And if your Air Conditioner is more than 10 years old, it might be better to replace the old one with a new, energy-efficient unit.
As energy.gov explains, current energy efficient air conditioners use 30-50 percent less energy to produce the same cooling as units made in the 1970s.
Upgrading the energy efficiency of your home could lower your utility bills by as much as 30 percent and it can be done without a major retrofit project. Whatever measures you’re able to take, the cost will get repaid in the form of a drier, more comfortable, and better-ventilated environment, a 25-30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and increased property value.