Everyone remembers running outside as a kid each summer and mom yelling “Shut the door!” in your wake. We didn’t understand what the big deal was then, but once you start paying your own electric bill, it’s much easier to understand.
Summer is a season that most people look forward to. Kids are off from school and many families take the opportunity to schedule a vacation. It’s also a great time for get-togethers and backyard shenanigans. Summer, unfortunately, is also the time of year when electric bills skyrocket. Utility bills are affected by increased use of air conditioning, fans and frequent showering. The perfect outdoor weather comes at a price for keeping the inside of the house comfortable.
Luckily, there are steps that any homeowner or renter can take to keep energy consumption down during warmer months. A key part of keeping the electric bill down is utilizing the cool air and circulation that is already in the house. This way, you’re not having to constantly run the air conditioning for three months. Everyone remembers running in and out of the house as a kid and mom yelling, “Shut the door!” in your wake. We didn’t understand what the big deal was then, but once you start paying your own bills, it’s much easier to grasp.
The real question is, how can you reduce the dreaded spike to your electric bill this year? We’ve done some research and gathered solutions to this yearly dilemma.
Keeping the house comfortable is a struggle that people face when fighting to keep their homes cool and the electric bill manageable. Older houses or apartment buildings can be more difficult when it comes to regulating the temperature. Draft stops can be a great help in these situations. For some people, that means rolling up an old beach towel to fill in the gap under an old, crooked door. There are also much more stylish ways to fill that gap that involve basic DIY projects with a pattern and material of your choice.
Another important aspect to cutting down on drafts in an older home is to make sure that the weatherstripping is replaced when needed. The time frame can vary depending on the weather in your area. Heavy, persistent rain and humidity can wear the weatherstrip down faster than in drier climates. Although, direct sun exposure can also make plastic seals brittle over time. Various types of weatherstripping can be used to block moisture and outside air. The important thing is to make sure that it is the right size to fill in the gaps in your windows. We normally lean toward matching the replacement weatherstripping with what was there before but we have some tricks up our sleeves on the rare occasion when that is not an option.
Older aluminum and wood windows sometimes have no weatherstripping at all. That is obviously not a good position to be in when it comes to weather-proofing your house. Though it’s a tough situation, there are options available to keep your cool air from escaping during the warmer months. Homeowners with wood windows can use a dremel to create a track that most weatherstripping requires to be installed. Just be sure to know what kind of weatherstripping and the size you want to use before tackling the project. Creating a track takes precision that might call for help from a professional, depending on your level of experience. Another option is to find wool pile weatherstripping with a wide back and use a double-sided waterproof adhesive to install it. This is not a permanent solution but should be enough to get you through the months where air conditioning is a must and rain is abundant.
Insulated curtains, which can help compensate for weaknesses in your homes defenses against outside weather, are thicker than typical curtains and keep heat form the sun out and cool air in. Not only do curtains add a decorative element to most rooms, but insulated curtains can help maintain the temperature of the room and reduce the amount of sound that you’ll hear from outside. Insulated curtains may also use magnets to keep corners flush against the wall and reduce airflow in or out of the window.
Another important aspect of summer-time maintenance is making sure that the air conditioning is system is cleaned and running at optimum capacity. Whether it be an outdated window unit or central air that hasn’t been maintained properly, both can cost you extra money in the long run. People often think that springing for a new air conditioner every few years or replacing the filter is an unnecessary added cost, but a lower electric bill will more than makeup for that cost in the long run and will also cut down on allergens that wind up in your house during the spring and summer months. Also, make sure to utilize a qualified professional if you’re experiencing unknown issues with maintaining a comfortable temperature in the house.
Fans, Fans and More Fans (but not too many)
Even though cranking down the thermostat is often unavoidable once the temperature reaches that terrible 90-degree mark, most people do what they can to put off running the air 24/7. Running fans year-round can help move the hot air up or the cool air down, depending on the direction you choose for it to oscillate. Pulling the hot air up during the summer will put less pressure on the central air or window units to maintain a comfortable temperature. No more having to turn the thermostat down to arctic temperatures. You can also turn fans off and on as needed, which is more energy-efficient than turning the air off and on since it has to work twice as hard to lower the temperature again.
“Keeping track of peak electricity hours is a quite overlooked, yet valuable tip to cut down electric bills during warmer months,” according to Matthias Alleckna, an energy analyst at EnergyRates.ca. “In summer, energy prices tend to go higher, and the average consumption increases considerably. During the most active periods, utility companies can charge people on-peak rates.”
Electric companies increase rates during morning and afternoon hours because companies often have open business hours early in the day and are using more power when they get the most business. To avoid these higher charges, Alleckna says that you can save energy-consuming tasks like laundry and running the dishwasher for later in the day. Since electricity prices can double during the daytime hours, doing late-night chores between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m can save any household a generous amount of money.
Another simple change that can save money and decrease heat is to switch to LED light bulbs. They are more efficient than their incandescent counterparts and have the added bonus of not producing unnecessary heat. Remember to turn lights off in each room and you’ll be on track to minimizing your monthly electric bill.
If this list seems a little overwhelming, just remember that the savings can be redirected to your favorite summer activities. A nice vacation over a long weekend, beach trips, or even just a walk to get ice cream after dinner. Maybe that extra money could go toward the pool you’ve always wanted. Is there a better way to stay cool and still enjoy the summer sunshine? Whatever you decide, remember to implicate these updates early so that they can work together to save you money.