Seven ways to save energy this summer

And so here we are again—suddenly and thoroughly in the heat of summer. You’re probably able to recognize the season according to your energy bill. There’s hope, however: most homes have room for improvement when it comes to summer energy usage. Hendricks Power Cooperative Energy Advisor Gregg Wright offers up some solid tips for making sure you’re getting all you can out of your energy dollars while the days are long and the heat is high.

  1. Seal and insulate. You’ve probably felt a draft coming in from the dining room window or under the side door. But if you don’t know where the energy leaks are, schedule an energy audit to find them. Then find savings by using weather stripping or caulk to seal ’em up. Having ample insulation (usually at least 12 inches) in your attic is another overlooked but important factor in energy efficiency.
  2. Adjust your water heater. “When more people are in the home—when the kids aren’t in school, for instance—more energy gets used,” Wright said. The uptick in consumption may be inevitable, but you can make some adjustments to keep the increase as low as possible. Keep your water heater running less by turning down its maximum temperature, installing low-flow showers and faucets, and loading up your clothes washer and dishwasher as much as you can before you run them.
  3. Think small for cooking. More space means more heat—and more energy. When your air conditioner is working extra hard to compensate for the heat your oven is putting out, you pay more. When you can, use the microwave or toaster oven to cook. “Or, heck—it’s summer—go outside and use your grill,” Wright said.
  4. Overcome the sun. Drapes and blinds block the heat that would otherwise make your AC work overtime. “When I walk around during an energy audit, I get readings of 130 degrees where the sun is hitting the ground,” Wright said. “Close the drapes and the heat goes away.”
  5. Boost your AC. “Fans are much cheaper to operate than an air conditioner,” Wright said. “Even if you put them all over the house.” He advises using one in your bedroom so that cool air blows over you while you sleep: “Most bedrooms are on the second floor, where it’s hotter, but a fan can help you feel cooler without using much energy.”
  6. Keep tabs on your filter. When your system can’t move air because of a clogged furnace filter, it needs a lot more energy to work. Check your filters once a month and change them regularly. You might also want to have your HVAC system serviced. “I do it at least once a year,” Wright said. “Your HVAC uses more energy than everything else in your house. If you want anything to run right, it’s that.”
  7. If you have a pool, put a timer on your pump. “A pool pump typically runs 24/7 from spring to fall,” Wright said. “But it doesn’t have to.” He advises cutting back the time it runs until you find that “too far” mark where the pool isn’t clean. You might find you can run it only 12 hours, he said, and still have clean water. Which means you’re using half the energy you previously were.