13 Tips to Stay Cool & Lower Your Electric Bill This Summer
Temperatures are rising, and energy bills mirror the temperature trend line. This article presents a few strategies to help you stay cool at home within a budget. We invite you to browse the information below and decide which strategies make the most sense for you. Air conditioners can be a massive drain on your energy budget, but they don’t have to be. At least, not to the same degree (pun intended). Here, we’ll discuss a few methods to keep your home comfortable without turning down the thermostat. There will be no sticker shock when the electric bill comes due.
1. Position Lamps & TVs Mindfully
Turn off the lights when you’re not using them. And position TVs so that ambient light suffices; there’s no need to switch on every incandescent bulb in the house to see where you laid the snacks. Did you know that placing a lamp or TV close to your AC thermostat can drive up energy costs? The heat radiating from a lamp or television makes your thermostat think your home is warmer than it is. Keep thermostats clear of heat sources to keep your AC honest.
2. Use Ceiling Fans
Circulating air creates a cooling effect regardless of room temperature. You can raise your thermostat setting 4 or 5 degrees while experiencing the same comfort level as you would in a cooler room with stagnant air. But there’s no benefit to leaving a fan on when you’re out of the room. Ceiling fans don’t cool a space. They only create a cooling effect because air molecules moving past your skin carry away heat. That heat remains in the house! Leaving fans on constantly will make your home warmer, not cooler. Like any electric appliance, they generate heat, though admittedly very little. The real problem is that they swap out cool air pooled in corners and crannies of the room with warmer air from the ceiling. Finally, be sure to clean fan blades often. Clean blades work more efficiently and spread less dust.
3. Seal Off Unused Rooms
Close the doors to unused rooms to spare the air conditioner from working harder than it needs to. You don’t need to blast the AC in every room of your house to stay comfortable. Just focus on cooling the rooms you use most during the day. The house cats may not like it at first, but they’ll adjust. Maybe.
4. Keep Windows & Doors Closed Except at Night
It may sound like common sense, but not everyone exercises good sense. Your refrigerator works extra hard when you prop open the door at length. Your AC is no different. It will struggle to replace the cold air escaping your home through open doors and windows. Open the house at night and turn on your HVAC fan to bring the fresh air inside without taxing your air conditioner.
5. Close Curtains & Blinds
As an experiment, grab your thermometer gun when it’s hottest outside and point it at your concrete driveway, backyard deck, or the exterior of your home exposed to the sun. You’ll be amazed. Solar radiation can heat surfaces to 150 F or more in Southern California, and unless you’ve shut the curtains or blinds, that radiation will blast through your windows. Thick curtains and blinds offer a better thermal seal than light window coverings. There’s a reason why heavy wood shutters are standard in traditional Mediterranean structures. They keep radiant sunshine out and cool air in.
6. Update Your Lighting
Incandescent bulbs emit significantly more heat than fluorescent and LED lights. Just sit close to one or put your finger to it (no, please don’t do this, really!), and you’ll get the idea. Your lighting sources could be heating your home, resulting in more work for your air conditioner. Make a switch to cooler, energy-efficient options like LED and fluorescent. You’ll lower your energy costs and enjoy better lighting quality and cooler summer afternoons.
7. Turn up the Thermostat
Raising the set point on your air conditioner’s thermostat just 5 degrees can save 18% on your energy bill. The closer your home temperature is to the outside temperature, the less your AC unit has to work. Kicking it up a few degrees will allow you and your family to remain in comfort at significantly less cost. As for home exercise? Do it first thing in the morning, when house temperatures are lowest. You’ll get more out of your session, feel better, and find it easier to maintain a daily habit.
8. Use Strategic Landscaping & Porch Umbrellas for Shade
Direct sun is nature’s form of radiant heating. Having shade trees and shrubs can help keep temperatures down and give your air conditioner a break. Landscaping also provides cool zones, in contrast to the heat islands created by concrete and asphalt driveways and porches, stucco and brick walls, and so on. Even wood porches can absorb and radiate extreme heat, but shading those hot spots with shrubs, trees, awnings, and umbrellas will help keep temperatures down.
9. Keep Your Air Conditioner Tuned & Maintained
A poorly maintained air conditioner burns electricity the way a bulldozer burns diesel fuel. It also does a poor job of cooling your home.
- Make sure that your air conditioner is the right size for your home. An oversized unit will cool your home quickly, but it will also use more energy than necessary.
- A unit that’s too small will constantly run, lacking the horsepower to cool your home. Not sure about this one? Ask us at West Coast Chief.
- Keep your air conditioner clean. A dirty air conditioner has to work harder, drawing more electricity.
- Finally, make sure that your air conditioner’s filters are clean. Dirty filters can block or impair airflow.
- West Coast Chief offers a maintenance plan to keep your air conditioner running at peak efficiency all summer long.
10. Inspect Your Ductwork & Thermal Seals
Homes can lose 20% or more of their heated or cooled air through leaks in their duct system. You may as well throw money out the window. Having your ductwork inspected, and your HVAC unit tuned can help you keep your cool air and money where they belong.
11. Take Cool Showers
The last thing you need during the summer months is a scalding hot shower. Heating water is a significant energy expense, ranging from 14-25% of your energy load, depending on your home. Turn your water temperature down a few degrees to save yourself big money. You’ll feel calmer and be less tempted to crank up the air conditioner.
12. Cook or Grill Outside
Your range throws off considerable heat while in use, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has stood over a hot stove or oven. Try microwaves, air fryers, or toaster ovens to do your cooking: smaller appliances with a much smaller heat signature. Better yet, take mealtime outside to the grill, where heat will dissipate into the summer air.
13. Use Smart or Programmable Thermostats
A programmable thermostat can save $150 or more each year in a modest home. It lets you deactivate your AC when you’re not home and turn it on just before your return. A smart thermostat like Google Nest allows even greater control from an app on your smartphone. And it’s far easier to program than a programmable thermostat! While they cost more to install and configure than standard “dumb” thermostats, smart and programmable thermostats will pay you back many times over in energy savings.
The Bottom Line
So there you have it — a few easy ways to reduce your energy costs and stay cool during air conditioner season. Implementing even a few of these tips can make a big difference in your energy bill, so get started today! Contact your local air conditioning service professionals at West Coast Chief for more tips and advice. We can help you find the best way to keep your home cool and comfortable all summer long.