Personal Finance

10 Ways to Save on Your Electric Bill This Summer

Flush money down the toiletWe’re all looking for ways to save money and one of the places to consider pinching those pennies is on your electric bill. The summer months often represent the greatest impact to your utility costs because when those temperatures rise the first thing we all do is fire up the air conditioning.

However, that’s not the only drain on your wallet to consider.  There are items all throughout your home that contribute to the rise in electricity bills during the season. Just walk around your house or apartment and you’ll likely discover something in nearly every room that is helping to chisel away at your finances.  Chances are you probably don’t even realize it’s happening.

Well, consider this your wake-up call. Stop throwing money away and check out these ten ways to save money on your electric bill this summer.

Some of these are simply common sense methods for conserving energy, a few others may sound obvious but aren’t exactly at the forefront of our collective minds because they’re not thrust in front of us to garner our attention on a daily basis. We’ve compiled this guide to serve as a useful reminder to take the necessary steps for lowering the electric bill while getting the maximum benefit from the energy that we do need to use during the warmest months of the year.

Depending on where you live, the weather can get particularly brutal as the thermometer reads triple digits on a consistently cruel basis. That’s going to force you to make some tough decisions: do you melt to death in the heat or rack up a hefty electricity bill in the hopes of finding some cool relief? Luckily, you have a few options to combat both of those things and the more of these useful tips that you implement, the easier it’ll be to make it through the hottest time of the year. Before you know it, winter will be coming and, guess what, you can utilize many of these same helpful hints as you try to save some extra dough on your heating costs as well. The steps you can take in the summer will be just as effective when you’re facing a deep-freeze only a few months later on. So get ready to get comfortable and keep some extra cash in your pocket as well.

1. Replace Your Filter

If you’re living in a home that has a central air conditioning system, then you’re going to need be diligent about making sure the filter is clean.  This is particularly important if you live in a home with pets.

The air filter is one of the most important components of your central air conditioning and heating system.  When it gets clogged up with the typical, everyday household dust, contaminants, and outdoor soot particles, then the entire system has to work harder and less efficiently to produce that cold air circulating through the vents. Add dog or cat hair to that mix and your filter is no longer an effective method of cleaning your air as much as it is a growing threat to the well-being of your air conditioning system altogether.

The dirty filter can also put a strain on your electric bill.  The increased amount you’re paying every month to your electricity provider is far more expensive than the price of buying a few extra replacement filters from your local hardware store. A good rule of thumb to keep your system working as efficiently and effectively as possible is to replace the filter every three months.

If you wait any longer than the recommended three month replacement, then you’re courting danger and risking your air conditioning system breaking down.  If this happens then it will really cost you a pretty penny to repair or even replace your unit.

You’re also adding extra dollars to your electric bill every month that you don’t replace your filter. Some of you may not even know where your filter is located. Now would be a good time to locate it and pop in a new one.

Dust on finger2. Clean Your System

You’ll want to clean out your HVAC system at least once a year to keep it running smoothly. If your home has a central air conditioning and heating system, chances are you use the system for a good part of the year, running the AC during the summer months from May to August and using it to heat your home from around November through February or March.

That’s almost two thirds of the year for your system to be operational, which means it’s getting dirty from all of the air that circulates through the vents and around the home. Yes, you do have a (hopefully clean) filter in there, but that won’t collect everything.  When you don’t tend to the maintenance of all the working parts and pieces of your system, along with the vents throughout the home that move all of that cold and warm air, you’re bound to get nasty build up that can prevent your system from running at its most efficient.

That equals more money for your electricity bills, which is what we’re trying to avoid here. If possible, hire a technician to come in to clean and inspect your system to identify where it can use some tender loving care. Grime and mildew in the vents isn’t just rough on your system, it’s also not great for you to inhale, either. Think of it as a way to keep the health of you and your home in top shape.

3.Turn Off the AC, Turn On the Fan

If you have overhead fans in the house, then you’re in luck. These can play an important role in helping you cut down on utility costs in the summer. Overhead fans are a great way to save because instead of running the air conditioner, you can use the fan to circulate the air through any room and create a cooling breeze to boot.

Just open the windows in your room and switch on the fan. Most of them are adjustable so you can increase the speed as you see fit for more cooling as needed. If you don’t have overhead fans installed, don’t worry.  You can still break out the oscillating fans to keep the air moving in and around wherever you spend your time while home.

For some folks, fans are the only option they have because their home or apartment doesn’t have air conditioning. If you’re among them, then you may want to invest in a tornado fan. These highly powerful versions of a regular fan can provide gusts of wind in any direction of your room and do an even better job of circulating air from open windows. Just be careful you don’t use too many at once or you’re not going to be very effective in cutting down on your electricity costs.

Keep in mind that most fans need to be plugged into an outlet to work. The same goes for your overhead fan – it also runs on electricity. Running too many all at once is not the solution to your utility bill costs, it will only contribute to the problem.

4. Stop the Leaks

One of the easiest ways to spend more energy dollars than necessary is by letting the air you’re spending a small fortune to cool seep out of the cracks in your home. When that crisp cold air is ending up outside, then it’s not effectively or efficiently cooling your house down. This means you’re running the air conditioner longer than necessary and paying more in utility costs.

In order to conserve your hard-earned cash and that wonderfully cool air at the same time, you need to seal up the leaks in your home. This probably isn’t something you want to do yourself.

You can hire a professional to complete a full energy usage and efficiency audit of your home and identify any weaknesses that exist. These leaks aren’t always visible to the naked eye at first glance, you really need to know where to look and how to find the crucial spots that are sucking your cold air outside. Technicians have all kinds of diagnostic tools and special equipment to locate these trouble spots and they’ll do the job much more quickly and more thoroughly than a layman.

However, if you would rather not spend the money on a professional energy diagnosis, than you can perform your own investigation.  Start by checking the obvious areas like around your doors and windows. Diagnose the not-so-obvious areas as well, like the baseboards, electrical sockets, and light switches. If your cold air is slipping out, those are the places where it’s happening. Run a finger along those surfaces to see if you can feel air seeping out.

If you do find trouble spots, then you’ll want to apply some caulk or foam sealant along the seams to keep your cold air inside. Again, you may want to get someone who does these repairs and renovations professionally if you discover any leaks. Fixing the problem could result in a savings of around 25-30% on your electricity bill.

Saving money from heating home5. Install a Programmable Thermostat

This is a tip for the folks who have central air and heating. When it’s excruciatingly warm in your home and you don’t want to feel like you’re walking into an oven when you get back from work, you may be tempted to just let the AC run while you’re not home. This is especially true if you have any pets or elderly people living with you as well.

However, running your system for seven or eight hours while you’re not home can be a serious burden on your finances. You can avoid this conundrum by installing a programmable thermostat. These little electronic marvels can be set to turn your system on and off at specific times of the day.  All you have to do is set it for an hour or two before you arrive for cool comfort when you walk in the door.

Many of these thermostats are also self-regulating to sense the temperature in the room and shut the system off once the air reaches a certain temperature. If your space gets too warm again, the thermostat is triggered at a preset temperature level to begin running the air conditioning until the room is once again cooled off.

This intermittent operation can keep your home comfortable without putting too much of a strain on your utility bill. These units aren’t very costly and they are easy to install with just about any central air system, old or new. Before you head out to the hardware store, take a look at the thermostat in your home at the moment as it’s possible you have a programmable already and you’re just not aware of it.

6. Unplug

We live in a technology-obsessed culture and it’s quite possible your home is populated with flat screen televisions and entertainment systems filled with a multitude of components from stereo receivers to Blu-ray players. You probably have at least one video game system like a PS4 or Xbox One as well. I’m guessing you also have a desktop or laptop computer along with large and small appliances in the kitchen.

With so many electronics in our homes it’s important to turn them off when they’re not in use in order to save energy. When you power them down, though, do they really shut off or are they still sucking up electrical power? In most cases, just because you’re turned that device off doesn’t mean it’s not still using up energy.

A majority of the devices, components, and electronic appliances we use everyday go into a “standby” mode when we turn them off. There is a still a phantom load that each component consumes. While this amount is not half as much as what’s being used when your television or stereo is switched on, there’s still some amount of electrical power expended.

If you let that go on long enough, it can start to pose a significant impact to your electricity bill.  The worst part is that not only are you unaware of the problem (because you think you switched everything off), but you’re not even getting the benefit of enjoying that device since you’re not actually using it.

Look, there are some things you need to have on 24 hours a day, such as your refrigerator for example.  The rest of the devices that are in the house shouldn’t drain your wallet dry when they’re not in use. The best way to avoid this problem is by unplugging everything instead of turning it off.

An easy way to do this is by powering these devices and appliances through a power strip.  This way you can simply switch it on and off to cut the power to all of the devices that are connected to it at the same time. It’s certainly easier than unplugging and re-plugging everything into your wall sockets each time you go to use an electric device.

7. Cook Outside of the Kitchen

Your home is hot enough in the summertime, so hot in fact that you’ve had the air conditioning on for the last few hours. Now it’s time to make dinner and you can’t exactly cook without heat. That means you’re switching on the oven or the stove.

All of that hot air you’ve been paying to cool down with your air conditioner is about heat right back up again. Running the oven in your kitchen will automatically raise the temperature in the room by at least two to four degrees, depending on how long you need to use it. The stove isn’t as bad, but it can still contribute to heating up all of that cold, expensive air.

Sure you can make cold meals for dinner.  One night you might way to try a veggie salad, cold cuts on a sandwich, pasta salad, or any number of “no-cook” entrees you can track down online from Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray.

When you tire of those options, head on outside and fire up the grill. It’s summer grilling season, after all! Prep those steaks and chicken or hot dogs and burgers in your nice cool kitchen, then bring it all outside and stick it on the hot grill as the sun goes down and the outdoor air cools under the night sky.

8. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water

You have to wash your clothes, that’s a given. You do have the option, however, of selecting warm, hot, or cold water when you wash your next load of dirty clothes.  This choice can be the difference between spending and saving money on your electric bill.

Heating up the water in your washer takes up a lot of energy consumption on the part of your machine. Washing in cold water cuts back that energy use by almost 90% which can result in a serious savings on your electric bill. Not to mention that cold water can be far better for your clothes because colors are less likely to run than if you use hot water to wash everything.

Cold water will save you money and save you time on those laundry chores, as you can throw whites and colors in the same load without worrying about colors bleeding into and staining any white items in the wash. You only run that risk with the hot water settings.

After the washing machine is finished, go one step further when it’s time to dry your clothes and don’t use the dryer. Hang everything up on a clothesline or with hangers and let your load air dry. It might take longer, but with temps reaching the 90’s or triple digits outdoors you won’t be waiting too long for the laundry to be ready for folding.

9. Close Vents and Doors

When you’re running the air conditioning in the dead of summer, you want to stay cool and save money. The best way to achieve both is by not cooling down the entire house. Take a walk around your home and shut the vents and doors of rooms that no one is using, this way you only cool down the room or rooms that need cooling.  This, in turn, means you’ll need to run the air conditioning for a shorter period of time.

Once the room you’re in has cooled down, you can switch it off and let it rest until your room warms up again. When that happens, turn it back on and, with all of the additional vents and doors shut, the cold air will be directed only where it’s needed. If someone needs to spend time in one of the rooms that was shut off from air flow, just open the vents back up and cool down that room as needed.

10. Throw Some Shade

One way to cut down on the heat in your home during the summer is by using the shade from trees and shrubs around the outside of the house. If you don’t have sufficient foliage for shade that can help keep your home cool, then you may want to look into taking a long-term solution to the problem and planting trees and other shrubbery to give you that shade.

This will, of course, help you use less energy because the home will be naturally cool and require the air conditioner to run less often. Taking this approach to energy conservation can get somewhat costly and it may take longer for you to see a return on that investment down the line, but it’s certainly effective.

Our Final Thoughts

The summer is always a tough time to save money. That’s why it’s a smart decision to take up these helpful conservation tips as you navigate the high temperatures between May and September. Each one should help you see anywhere from 10% to 30% in savings on your bill.

When you can start to stack those savings on top of each other, you can really get a jump on your electricity costs. Even if you need to spend a little on some minor maintenance and renovations that you may need to perform, those actions will still help keep you in the black for the long term so you won’t break your budget trying to stay cool throughout the season.

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