I’m a hot-natured girl who loves to stay cool during the summer but seeing an electric bill nearly double from air conditioning use can make me sweat faster than any heat wave can. By following some tips from my local utility company as well as coming up with a few creative ideas myself I have managed to keep my electric bill 60% lower this summer than in years past.
Keep the Heat Out
Here in Connecticut many homes lack central air, including ours. While we have window air-conditioning units for our 1,300 square foot home it sometimes doesn’t feel like enough, especially on extremely hot days. In my opinion the best investment for helping to keep the heat out of the house is blackout curtains. At the beginning of each summer I take these money-savers out of the closet and strategically place them on the windows that receive the most direct sunlight. It’s a simply and energy-free way to save on utility costs and one pair of curtains can be had for as little as $25.
Choose What Rooms to Keep Cool
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration the average home used 940 kilowatthours (kWh) per month in 2011. Furthermore, 19% of the average home’s electricity is spent on space cooling alone. During hot days I try to reduce the amount of my house that I need to keep cool. I close the doors to all but one bedroom (our daughter’s) and only turn the air conditioning unit on in the living room. The window unit in the nursery gets turned on for naps only. If you have central air you should also close the vents in those rooms, even the bathrooms. There is no point in paying to cool a room that you won’t spend much time in. Just remember to cool down your bedroom about half an hour before you plan to go to sleep, otherwise you may be hot and miserable while you wait for the temperature to go down.
If you know that the upcoming week will be a scorcher, prevent your utility bill from going up by powering down on things you rarely use. Take into consideration the wasting of energy through “vampire power” and unplug anything you don’t use more than once a day. Turning off power strips to things like audio equipment can make the biggest impact. I turn off all the power strips in my home at the end of the day. Another option is to consider turning off your water heater when not in use. My local utility company recommended this because electric water heaters tends to be one of the biggest energy consumers. According to the label listed on my water heater, my annual energy cost for this one piece of equipment is $410. That used to be 22% of my monthly utility bill! Just one month of turning my water heater off helped save us over $15. Now we only run the water heater during the evenings and on weekends. Don’t worry about having no hot water during the day: I found I was able to access hot water for hours after I turned the water heater off. Just be sure to turn it back on about half an hour before you need hot water again.
If you lack air-conditioning and are in dire straits, get creative with ways to cool your house. A shower curtain and tension rod can be easily hung in the doorway between large living spaces to help keep cool air in only one of the rooms. Avoid using the stove or oven and instead use alternative methods like rice cookers and crock pots to make your evening meal. If all else fails, ice cream is always a suitable meal on a hot day.
More from this contributor:
Living Rich on a Poor Man’s Budget
Parenting on a Budget: 8 Great Money-Saving Tips
6 Creative Ways to Find More Coupons