You know it’s coming, that sweltering beast we all call summer. The blistering weather brings more than just lethargy and unsightly sweat stains—it can also lead to sky-high electric bills as you crank up the AC. But if your energy expenses are making you feel faint, don’t fear: Just like prepping your home for winter, you can “summerize” your place to save money. Here’s how to stay cool and save money.
Tip No. 1: Avoid running appliances during the day
David Quant, vice president of field operations for American Home Shield, suggests using heat-emitting appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers at night, when the heat they generate won’t bother you so much.
“Also, check with your utility company to see if there are off-peak times when using appliances can earn you discounts on your electric bill,” he adds.
Tip No. 2: Get your ceiling fan moving in the right direction
Ceiling fans can help keep cool air circulating through your home. Just make sure they’re turning counterclockwise. Most ceiling fans allow you to do this with the flip of a switch; or else you might have to turn the blades.
Tip No. 3: Cool your lights
Green Cleaning Coach Leslie Reichert suggests swapping out your heat-emitting incandescent lightbulbs with cooler compact fluorescent lights.
Tip No. 4: Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees
A heater set to 140 degrees or higher can waste anywhere from $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses and more than $400 in demand losses, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Quant agrees lowering that temperature is a smart and painless tweak to make. “We bet you won’t even notice the change in temperature.”
Tip No. 5: Clean up your AC
If you have central air, start by clearing out the dead leaves and trimming back encroaching shrubs around your condenser unit. Shut off the power, hose down the coils, vacuum out the vents, and make sure none of them are blocked. If you use window units, dust your unit inside and out. If it’s over a decade old, replace it with an Energy Star unit.
Tip No. 6: Replace your filters
While the standard recommendation is to replace AC filters every three months, Quant recommends switching them out every month.
“This will ensure that your air conditioner isn’t slowed down by inefficiency. Want to save even more? Invest in a reusable filter.”
Tip No. 7: Seal the cool air in
Whatever your type of air conditioner, make sure any vents or seals are tight. Then inspect the insulation in your basement and/or attic for gaps, especially around ductwork. Also check those windows and doors to see if you need to recaulk or seal anywhere to stem any leaks of cold air.
Tip No. 8: Cover your windows with solar shades or curtains
These help keep the sun from heating up your home. You can buy them at a hardware store. Or, make Tree Hugger’s heat-blocking curtains for $6 using emergency survival blankets. Keep these window treatments closed during the day as much as possible; at the very least, keep them closed during the hours when the sun shines through your windows.
Tip No. 9: Close vents and doors inside, too
Don’t waste energy cooling rooms that don’t get used, Quant says. Instead, close the vents there and keep the doors closed so you can direct more of that cool air in the rooms you do use.
Tip No. 10: Get a smart thermostat
Don’t have a programmable thermostat? Installing one not only lowers your energy bill, it can also reduce wear and tear on your AC system. Reichert recommends programming your thermostat to a slightly warmer temperature during hours when everyone is out of the home.
“Most people don’t program their thermostats because it can be complicated,” says Quant. “With this one simple step, you can save up to $180 each year on your heating bill.”
If you’re thinking of buying one, consider a smart thermostat, which can actually sense when you’re away and will shift into energy-saving mode.