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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Cool Your Home and Save Money Too

My utility bills go way up in the hot summer months. Part of the cost increase is probably because my three college-age sons come home for the summer, but part of it is also our desire to keep our home cool. One hot evening recently I was motivated to rethink our household habits to try and find ways to keep our home cool and save money. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has some good suggestions that I found helpful, and I hope you do too.

First, change to more efficient light bulbs. Energy Star qualified  (such as CFLs and LEDs) produce about 75% less heat than incandescent bulbs. Thus, when you use Energy Star qualified light bulbs you use less energy to light your home AND less energy to cool your home. This is a definite win-win during our hot summers.

Next, raise your thermostat setting when you leave your home. I love having a programmable thermostat that I can set for a higher temperature when I leave for work as well as being able to cool our home down a few degrees by the time I return home.

Sometimes feeling cooler is as good as cooling your home. Fans create a cooling breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower your cooling costs by up to 14%, according to the EPA.

Do you have a room facing west that the afternoon sun tends to heat up? I do, and that's why I planted a deciduous tree to block the sun rays in the summer. Another option is to close curtains or shades on the sunny windows to block some of the heat from coming into your home.

If you haven't checked your air conditioner filter lately, now is the time to check your filter. Dirty filters can make it hard for your air conditioner to work efficiently. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how often to change or clean your air conditioner filter.

This tip may seem obvious but you now have "my permission" to not cook dinner tonight! Reduce oven time to help keep your home cool. Consider alternative meals such as salads or using your microwave oven to cook.

And, last but not least, plug duct system leaks. Make sure cooled air is getting where you want it and not leaking out through poor connections. Seal duct work and insulate all ducts that you can access. Make sure duct connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors and walls as well. Many homes could benefit from this home improvement. In fact, this might be a good task for home-for-the-summer sons and daughters ....

These seven tips for keeping our homes cool are relatively simple to implement. Do you realize that the average home spends almost 20% of its utility bill on cooling, according to the EPA? That means that a change in habits can mean a real change in how much we spend to cool our home. I challenge you to pick a tip or two or three, and see if it makes a difference.

If you have an energy and money saving tip you'd like to share, please click on the "Leave a comment" link below. This hot weather is predicted to last and I'd appreciate new ways to keep my home cool!

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