Tips for slashing summer utility bills

  • Article by: TERRI BENNETT , McClatchy News Service
  • Updated: June 11, 2013 - 3:32 PM
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Digital thermostat

Make your thermostat work for you

First, program your thermostat to work around your family’s summer schedule — set it a few degrees higher when no one is home, so you’re not cooling an empty house. Contrary to popular belief, your cooling system doesn’t struggle to make up the difference. Or install and program a programmable thermostat so you won’t worry about changing the thermostat every time you leave your home.

 

Don’t forget the fan

A fan is another effective way to make it feel cooler in your home. One ceiling fan alone can make a room feel as much as seven degrees cooler. If you raise your thermostat by two degrees and use a ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. The fan’s blades should spin counter-clockwise during the hotter months, generating a stronger breeze directly under the fan. Of course, don’t waste energy — turn the fan off when you leave the room. In humid climates, using a dehumidifier will also make it feel cooler by lowering the relative humidity inside your home.

 

Make your windows more efficient

Closing the blinds and curtains during the day can also help you keep cool. When you block the sunlight you can reduce the heat coming into your home by as much as 40 percent. To maximize your benefit, make sure the side of the curtain facing the window is white and sun-reflecting. You can also choose curtains with a thermal lining for additional insulation.

 

Keep cool in the kitchen

Your kitchen is another big source of heat inside your home. Avoid running your appliances such as the dishwasher (or clothes dryer) during the day. Instead, run it at night and only when it is fully loaded. Instead of heating up the oven, fire up the grill to keep it cool inside. Using a microwave oven is another way to whip up side dishes without creating more heat in the kitchen.

 

Trees make a big impact

Finally, plant a tree (or two) near the southwest corner of your home. Choose a deciduous tree that will shade your home in the summer and shed its leaves in the fall to allow in warm winter sunlight. Plan for the tree to grow there for decades, so don’t plant it too close to your home. Find out the approximate full size of the canopy and plant accordingly.

Combined, these tips can dramatically reduce the amount of energy you use to keep your home cool. And you’ll hardly break a sweat as you do your part to make them work for you.

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