Save Energy and Lower Summer Cooling Costs - U of I Extension

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Save Energy and Lower Summer Cooling Costs

This article was originally published on June 8, 2010 and expired on July 10, 2010. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

The weather is already hot and it's only the beginning of summer! How can we keep our energy bills down and still feel comfortable?

Start by making a personalized checklist of things you can do around your home. One way to do this, suggests Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension Educator, is to walk from room to room with energy consumption in mind. "As I do this in my house, I can quickly jot down on a paper pad several things that I have been meaning to do but just haven't done yet! For example, there's that weatherstripping on the back door that the puppy chewed up last year. I can see light shining through it in the morning; definitely an air-leakage area! And, oh yes, time to reset my programmable thermostat for summer hours."

Here are some suggestions to consider for your summer energy conservation checklist:

  • Change your air conditioner filter regularly – inspect it once a month during times of heavy use and if it looks dirty, replace it. Check the manufacturer's instructions for how to check your filter and recommended times to replace it. Keeping the filter clean can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5%–15%.
  • Have your heating and cooling units checked and maintenance work done by a qualified service professional once a year.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. It will likely pay for itself within a year. When you are gone from your home for more than 4 hours, set the thermostat to go up.
  • Here's an easy one to forget but it does make a difference. Use fans to move air. The airflow produced creates a wind-chill effect, making you "feel" cooler. You can change the rotation of ceiling fan blades for the full impact. In the summer, use the ceiling fan in the clockwise direction. While standing directly under the ceiling fan you should feel a cool breeze.
  • Inspect your heating and cooling ducts to determine if you are losing cooled air through leakage. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent.
  • Walk around your home and check for other air leakage areas. For example, places where weatherstripping needs replacing or holes that go into your home.
  • Consider installing ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment. If your equipment is more than 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable, have it evaluated by a heating and cooling professional. If you do decide to replace your equipment, consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR. When comparing units, remember that the cost of the unit includes not only the initial cost but also the energy operating costs. These energy operating costs occur year after year.

The federal government is currently offering a tax credit for qualified new heating and cooling systems for residential homes until December 31, 2010. You may qualify for 30% of costs up to $1500. Be sure you understand how to qualify before you make a purchase – not all heating and cooling systems qualify.

For more information about cooling your home efficiently, visit www.energystar.gov and click on Heat & Cool Efficiently. Information about the tax credits are at this website also.

Once you've taken care of the obvious energy conservation steps on your checklist, you may want to do a home energy audit through an excellent online tool, Home Energy Saver, at http://hes.lbl.gov/. At this website, you can input information about your own home and then see how changes to your home would save in energy costs. Save your session number and you can come back and add more information to your home profile, and calculate energy savings for different energy conservation improvements.

For more energy savings tips and information, visit the new Home Energy eXtension website, (http://www.extension.org/home%20energy), with information from more than 70 land-grant universities.

Source: Kathy Sweedler, Extension Educator, Consumer Economics, sweedler@illinois.edu

Pull date: July 10, 2010