This summer, see how you can make saving money a breeze by introducing a few simple improvements to your home.
Keep Cool and Save Money This Summer
Summer is our favorite time of the year. We love the longer days (the better for working on our DIY projects), warm evenings, and time spent with friends. What we don't like is the astronomical energy bills that come with the hot weather. If you are done with spending a fortune in the name of basic comfort, we have good news. This summer you can make saving money a breeze by introducing a few simple improvements to your home.
Tip 1: Know the Key to Cheaper A/C
Did you know that the energy needed to run air conditioners costs American consumers more than $11 billion a year? Central air conditioning does the best job of keeping your home cool during those hot summer days and doesn't have to break the bank. To cut soaring bills without sweltering through another season, consider installing or upgrading to an energy-efficient central cooling system. When browsing, look for an ENERGY STAR (R) symbol, which denotes energy efficiency.
Though picking out an entire cooling system may seem daunting, you won't necessarily need the biggest and most sophisticated model. Your home's square footage, insulation and climate all play a role in the kind of air conditioner you need.
Tip 2: Not Your Grandma's Wall Unit
Individual room air conditioners are an excellent way to keep cool this summer and have come a long way in the past several years. Priced in the $100-and-up range, window units also come in the energy efficient variety, so again, look for an ENERGY STAR(R). Install the unit in a shady place to improve functionality. The northern and southern sides of your home are preferred to the eastern and western sides, as direct sunlight will warm the air conditioner and make it less efficient. Routine maintenance and cleaning is also a must; it will extend the life of your investment for years. For optimum energy efficiency make sure you are using the right size air conditioner.
Tip 3: Let the Breezes Blow
Ceiling fans are a great way of keeping cool and now come in a host of styles to match any decor. From sleek and sophisticated to dolled-up and theme-based in a variety of colors, a ceiling fan can make a great accoutrement to a room while saving money on energy bills. Choose a brand with multiple settings for maximum efficiency, and make sure the paddles are big enough to cool the room. A quick calculation of the room's square footage will take care of this. Installation. is relatively easy, and will only take a few hours. Using a ceiling fan in conjunction with your air conditioner means the thermostat can be turned down a few degrees.
Tip 4: Insulate Your Home (and Wallet)
Insulation is one of the best and least expensive ways of lowering your bills during the summer and winter. Many older homes are in need of additional insulation anyway, so this may be an eventual must-do. Consult your local hardware store for the type of insulation that is right for your home and climate. Ceiling insulation should top 12" and the attic, if you have one, is the best place to start. (Click here for tips on installing insulation.)
Tip 5: Be Made in the Shade
Most heat enters your home through the windows, potentially hiking the temperature by more than 20 degrees. Clear, heat-reduction windows are available if you are feeling ambitious. If not, consider awnings above eastern and western windows. They can be made to order in any color, size and style and reused for years. Light-reflecting blinds are also a great way to go. Finally, the ever-versatile and inexpensive pair of curtains can be hung in multiple layers to let in or block out as much sun as you fancy. (During the winter season, you will need to think about insulating your windows.)
Tip 6: Get Your Ducts in a Row
Leaky air ducts can waste up to 12% of your home's energy. Besides unusually high utility bills, signs that your air ducts may need sealing include a constant need to change your air filter (more than once a month) and rooms that are either too hot or too cold. Simple do it yourself repairs include reconnecting loose ducts, sealing joints and tears with duct tape and adding insulation wherever necessary.
Tip 7: Have Pool, Stay Cool
If you are lucky enough to be able to dip into your very own pool this summer, make sure your money isn't going down the drain. Lower the pool's temperature to the minimum recommended by the manufacturer, and cover to retain heat when not in use. (Covering the pool will also reduce debris, evaporation and chemical loss.) By simply installing a timer to the pool's heater, you can predetermine heating times and duration. Click for Tips on Pool Safety or on Deciding to Install a Pool.
Jane Tip: Cutting back on pool cleaning time and operating your filter during non-peak hours can save up to 2% on your bill for the entire summer. Now you can spend more time lounging in the pool instead of worrying about how much it costs.
Tip 8: Landscape Your Way to Financial Freedom
Since it's summertime, why not get into the garden? Planting trees, shrubs and other foliage around your home helps to block out the summer sun and winter wind. A shade tree at the southern part of your home will act as a great barrier and will look great too! When deciding on what to plant, take into consideration the tree's height at maturity, overhanging wires and plumbing. Smaller shrubs, vines and evergreen trees can be planted around your home for additional protection from the elements.
Tip 9: Rebates + Financing = Free Cash
Check with your local utility company for special offers. Making the move towards an energy efficient home will not only keep you cool this summer and give you some great do it yourself jobs, but will also earn you money. Many gas and electric companies offer rebates of up to $200 or more towards energy-efficient upgrades such as water heaters, insulation, roofing, and windows. Often these deals are on a first-come, first-serve basis, and are calculated by the number of energy efficient measures you take. Financing and assistance programs are also available to give you a jump start.
Tip 10: Turn it Off!
You have never had a better excuse to enjoy the summer than this: running appliances during the middle of the day is more financially straining and creates unnecessary heat in your home. Delay chores until off-peak hours or until you have a full dishwasher or load of laundry. Also, turning off lights, computers and other appliances when not in use can save you up to 5% on your utility bill.
Saving money this summer doesn't have to mean suffering through another heat wave. Simply being mindful of how much energy you're using can equal big savings for the long sizzling days ahead.