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:
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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.
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.
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.