This has been one of the hottest summers on record as new temperature highs were set all across the northern hemisphere this year. If you’re like us at Crucial, you’ve been planning to celebrate November 26th with a huge party. (That’s the birthday of William Carrier, father of modern air conditioning.) While you might not be as enthusiastic as we are, you’ve probably been running your air conditioning a lot. And that means your cooling bill has seen some pretty high numbers too. While there’s not much you can do about it this year, we’re going to give you some tips on how to reduce your overall energy use for heating and cooling and save money on your energy bill.
Of course, the most recommended thing you should do to reduce your cooling bill is make some home improvements. One of the simplest methods is by adding insulation and increasing the overall R-factor of your home. You might not think that insulation will help keep your house cool, but heat transfer works both ways. In the winter, proper insulation helps keep heat from escaping; in the summer that same insulation keeps heat from flowing from the outside to the cold inside. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a full spray insulation renovation, even laying down new batteries or replacing old ones will help reduce your overall costs. Depending on how much you’re adding, you can save up to $600 per year.
Another easy way you can save money on your heating and cooling bills is by identifying any leaks in your home. The best way to do this is by renting an infrared camera and scanning your home for any hot spots. Just make sure to look from the inside during the summer. Heat flows from hot to cold, so you’ll be able to identify any spots where it’s coming in. Once you’ve identified leaks, it’s a simple matter to seal them with caulk or foam sealant. Problem areas you should look at include where any utilities enter the house, around doors and windows, and exterior walls. Just taking this small step to seal your home can cut cooling costs by 10 percent.
While many people recommend windows as an immediate go-to solution, because of the expense involved, we think it should be one of the last items on your list. While windows are a major source of thermal loss and gain for a home, it doesn’t do much to spend thousands of dollars on windows if the rest of the house is leaking like a sieve. If you aren’t ready to make this investment, getting solar screens is a less expensive option. These screens intercept up to 70 percent of solar energy before it gets into your home, reducing how hot the sun can make it. Be warned however, these screens do make your windows darker, because most of that solar energy is light.
Many people forget that landscaping can have a major effect on your heating and cooling bills. You may have seen houses with tall rows of trees planted nearby in the middle of a field. This is because planting shade trees on the south side of your property can help shade you from summer sun. Not only do trees provide cooling by providing shade, they also cool the immediate air around them through their natural processes. The proper use of landscaping has been shown to reduce bills associated with air conditioning by 15 to 50 percent. Additionally, if you have a central air conditioner, shading the compressor (the outside portion) can help reduce your cooling bills.
Depending on the zone you live in, you can plant trees to act as either wind breaks or wind funnels. In the south, trees are often planted on either side to direct cooler breezes to the home. In the north, where winter winds can whip down and wrest heat away from a home, windbreaks are planted on the north and northwest sides of the house. These windbreak trees also create a dead zone of still air that acts as a thermal barrier in both winter and summer.
One of the simplest ways to save money is to tweak your thermostat just a touch when you aren’t home. While you may set it to a comfortable 78 degrees when you’re home, consider setting it to 85 when you leave or at night when you’re sleeping. This small tweak can save you up to 10 percent on your cooling bills.
When the air is especially humid, you may be tempted to turn your AC on high and blast cold air everywhere. Instead, set your AC fans on a lower speed. The slower air movement will allow more moisture to be pulled from the air, letting you stay more comfortable while you save money as well.
Lastly, make sure you’re cleaning or changing the filters on your central air system on a regular basis. A clean filter is a happy filter and won’t make the system work harder than it should to pump air throughout your home.
When it comes to your energy bill, nobody likes to feel like they’re spending more than they should. With just a weekend’s work, you can make some quick improvements to your house and end up saving a bundle in the long run. Let us know in the comments below what your favorite tip is for keeping your summer cooling bill down.