By Cory Sekine-Pettite
Summer has officially begun, and if predictions are correct, this year will be one of the hottest summers on record. Of course, in the South we’re used to heat and humidity; we all have our ways of coping, but you don’t have to let these summer days drain your bank account from astronomical utility bills.
According to Energy Star, the government-backed program that helps us all protect the environment and save money, the average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of this going to cooling and heating costs. The energy used in the average house is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as the average car.
Yes, you can help yourself with so-called cooling bed sheets and desktop or ceiling fans. But the bigger/better ways to keep yourself and your home cool — and to save money on your utility bills — is to check the following items in your home:
- Embrace Energy-Efficient Windows — Industry officials agree that you replace the windows in your home every 15-20 years. Look for the Energy Star label when buying new windows — it means the windows meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Seal the Deal — Check for air leaks around your windows and electrical outlets, or gaps around pipes and wires. Many of these areas can be filled with caulk or special coverings. Additionally, ensure weatherstripping around windows and doors is secure and in good condition.
- Cover and Close — Close window blinds and drapes to keep sunlight from coming in, especially on southern-facing windows. Additionally, make sure you close your windows when the air conditioner is on. Closed windows will keep the cool air trapped inside and will prevent the air conditioner from working too hard.
- Don’t Forget the Filter — Check your air filter frequently: once a month in the summer and winter, when it is used heavily. A dirty filter will slow down airflow and make the system work harder to keep you cool.
- Turn Up the Thermostat — Turn up the thermostat while you’re not at home (or set it as high as is comfortable when you are home) to lower your utility bills. Programmable or smart thermostats work best.
- Simple Tasks; Big Savings — Air-dry your clothes instead of using the dryer. Keep the fireplace closed so the cool air doesn’t escape. If you can, limit the use of your oven to keep your house from getting too hot.
For more information, visit energystar.gov.