7 Ways to Cut Your Utility Bills This Summer

My husband likes the house cool, so once summer comes, the utility bills start to rise as the air conditioner is turned on. In order to save money on our utility bills, we often employ a number of strategies that also increase the energy efficiency of our home. If you are concerned about your utility bills this summer, here are 7 ways you can cut costs:

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

1. Take Care of the AC

Proper maintenance of your air conditioning system can ensure that it is running efficiently — and costing you less. An Energy Star air conditioner is a good start. On top of that, clean the filters in your system each month to increase efficiency.

Increase energy efficiency further: You can also consider a cooling and heating system on geothermal activity. These systems work by using pipes to distribute the stable temperatures found underground (about five feet down) throughout your home. It is worth noting that some energy efficient home improvements are eligible for tax credits this year.

2. Plug Leaks

During the winter, leaks allow hot air to escape. During the summer, those same leaks can lead to the loss of cool air from inside the house. Make sure that your windows are sealed around the edges (energy efficient windows are a plus), and that leaks from ducts, around electrical outlets and around doors are properly taken care of. You can also close vents in rooms that are not in regular use.

3. Program the Thermostat

When no one is home, set the thermostat higher. You can program your thermostat to automatically kick on a few minutes before you get home. That way, you aren’t cooling an empty house. If your home doesn’t have a programmable thermostat, and you do not want to buy one, make it part of your routine to change the thermostat before you leave in the morning.

4. Use a Ceiling Fan

Instead of keeping the air conditioner running all night, when it’s cooler, get a ceiling fan. A ceiling fan above the bed can circulate the air, and it will use much less power than the AC unit. You can also consider opening the windows when the sun goes down and the air outside cools off to help lower the temperature in the house. Just make sure they are shut in the morning before the air outside starts heating up.

5. Starve Energy Vampires

Consider your electronics and energy use. Switch your entertainment plugs to a smart strip, and at the end of the day, flip it off. Even when your television or computer are off, they are still sucking small amounts of power — and costing you. Unplug or use the smart strip at the end of the day, and you will use less power overall. You can also look at your appliances, and determine which could be replaced with more efficient models to lower your utility bill.

6. Draw the Shades

You can shade your home by drawing the shades during the summer. Keep the sun out, and keep your home cooler on the inside, reducing the need for air conditioning. This can be effective when combined with fans to circulate the air, ensuring that you reserve the use of the AC unit for the most difficult hours of the day.

7. Landscaping

Consider your landscaping. Trees and shrubs can help shade your home. If you are concerned about water use, you can landscape with drought resistant varieties, plants native to your area, or plants that require very little water (xeriscaping). This can take a while to work, especially if you have new landscaping. You should also realize that a xeriscaped yard will initially require a great deal of water. But, over time, your yard can help increase the ability of your home to remain cool during the summer months.

Bottom line: There are a number of things you can do to save money on summer utility costs, many of them relatively simple and inexpensive. Reducing your energy consumption is a great way to help stimulate your personal finances.

About the Author

By , on May 14, 2010
Miranda Marquit
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.

Leave Your Comment (10 Comments)

  1. John says:

    I have a fan that sucks all the hot air out of the house through the attic. Once it’s cooled down outside, the inside temperature can drop 10 degrees within about 20 minutes of turning on the fan.

  2. Betsy says:

    Great Tips!! Similar to your husband I also like my apartment cool during the summer. Sometimes I can’t even believe how costly the bills can get. When I was younger we didn’t have central air so when there was a hot summer day my mom would always close all the blinds, turn all of our ceiling fans on and make sure every window and every door was closed and sealed as best as they could be. I’m going to have to start picking up some of her habits and following some of these tips. Thanks!

  3. DDFD says:

    Nice tips– Landscaping is often overlooked. Many builders and homeowners remove trees– big mistake. The shade from our trees cools our home beautifully in summer. In winter the sun helps warm the house because the leaves are gone. You have to love nature! Very frugal!

  4. Bernz says:

    I have been using a ceiling fan on almost all the rooms of the house. I like the cooling effect and the soft,cool breeze it produces. In fact, I even use the ceiling fan in our bedroom in the winter. Another tip would be to cover those electrical outlets. You will be surprise by how much air actually gets in the house through those. You can buy covers from your hardware stores.

  5. Stephan says:

    great tips. at my house in the summer, we close all the windows and shades in the morning to keep the house as cool as possible and then open everythign as soon as the sun drops. It generally works to cool teh house off at night, but on certain days when even the night is hot, we still end up using an AC.

  6. Do not use the oven when the A/C is on. It will heat up the house. Also, buy a kill-a-watt device that will tell you just how many watts everything is using…helps you make a big difference.

    Dollars Not Debt

  7. Pinyo says:

    @kt – At first I didn’t like them either, but they do work amazingly well. Well placed ceiling fans can delay firing up your conditioner for a while, or even work in conjunction with.

  8. kt says:

    i have an irrational fear of ceiling fans. Whenever i see those blades going round and round, i get the impression that they are going to come off, go sailing through the air and decapitate some poor soul(me). weird huh?? the good thing is that we rarely have the need to use them in my neck of the woods

  9. Good point about drawing the shades. I keep telling this to my husband when he wants to open the drapes and blinds that he’s heating up the house.

    His goal is to get the fresh air in the house.

  10. Andrea Coutu says:

    Great tips. I also find it was helpful to put insulated blinds and curtains in every room. It cut my heating costs in half in summer and winter.

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