Summer is fast approaching—if you don’t watch out, you could be burned by the sun in more ways than one.
Nearly half of the energy costs in a typical home come from heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Here’s how to save on home cooling costs this summer:
1. Turn Up the Thermostat
For every degree you raise your thermostat, you’ll cut your cooling costs by 3% to 4%, according to the specialists at Trane air conditioning. Consider buying programmable thermostats that are easy to install—they can shave about 10% off of your heating and cooling bills.
2. Reduce Humidity
The more you reduce humidity, the cooler your house will be. According to the Minnesota Blue Flame Gas Association, a nonprofit that educates consumers about energy efficiency, you can reduce humidity by taking shorter showers with cooler water and by covering pots and pans when cooking. Additionally, consider using a de-humidifier and running range and bathroom exhaust fans. The energy cost of running de-humidifiers and exhaust fans for a short time will be minimal compared to that of cooling a humid house.
3. Put Up Window Awnings
According to Erin Carlson, a Stanford-educated environmental manager and director of Yahoo! for Good (Yahoo!’s hub with an environmental focus), installing window awnings can reduce heat gain by up to 65% or more.
4. Plant Trees
Trees help the environment in more ways than you might think. Three trees properly placed around a house can save up to 30% in energy use. Plant on the west and northwest to provide mid-to-late afternoon shade. We recommend deciduous trees because they drop their leaves in the fall, letting in more light and heat during the winter.
5. Make a Few Minor Lifestyle Changes
Shel Horowitz, author of Painless Green, suggests we close our windows, drapes, and blinds during hot days and open them back up when the sun goes down. Open windows on opposite sides of the house and keep the doors open to create cross-ventilation. Additionally, David Berman of Home Technology Specialists of America (an association specializing in installing home automation systems) told us that simply dimming light fixtures around the house by 30% can save you up to 50% on your utility costs.
6. Know Which Rooms You’re Cooling
Central thermostats in a house can cool rooms unevenly. Consider the AirFlow Breeze Ultra, an add-on for your existing air conditioner to fix “problem” rooms that are consistently too hot or too cold. It can raise or lower the temperature of a room by three to five degrees, without making you crank up that thermostat. The unit costs $90 and has an operating cost of only $5 per year. Meanwhile, you’ll cut your energy usage by 3% to 5% for every degree you raise the temperature, below 78.
7. Invest in “Cooler” Windows
Windows such as the Anderson 100 Series minimize the heat in your house from the sun. A window in the 100 Series ranges from $150 to $800, depending on its specifications. You’ll ultimately have the chance to make your money back because Anderson’s windows are made with materials that block heat transfer almost 700 times more than aluminum. As a perk, the window also qualifies for the government’s $1,500 tax credit for energy efficient remodeling.
8. Insulate Your Home
Start small: Make sure every outlet on an exterior wall has a foam insulating pad. These only cost about $5, and are easily installed by unscrewing your current switch plate, putting the foam in place, and then screwing the plate back on. To go the more drastic route, consider insulating and air sealing your home, which can reduce your energy bills by 20% to 30%, according to Mike Rogers, executive vice president at GreenHomes America. Insulating your home can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $7,000, but the tax credit you’ll get for it could range from $360 to $1,500. Consumers can also save between 20% and 40% on cooling and heating costs—about $400 to $700 per year, with some saving well over $1,000 per year. Most people recoup their investments within two to four years, says Patrick Pitrone, president of USA Insulation.