April
28 - 2015

Ten Ways to Save Big on Energy Bills This Summer

Saving on energy bills can help you save money while cutting back on your part of our overall energy consumption.  For my family, the cost of cooling our small house is actually a lot higher than keeping it warmer during the harsh winter months.  So this year let’s think about the big picture approach.  Be sure to get your entire family on board, afterall you know that the summer months usually mean the kids are home more and often with friends. Take the going green approach with your young ones so they get the connection.

dog-Save Big on Energy BillsHow can I save money on energy without spending extra money?

There are ways to cut back on energy that cost anywhere from a few bucks to a big chunk of change.  But because I run across a lot of people who think that it takes money to save money on energy, I wanted this article to focus on ways you can do it for free or little cost, or by simply reworking what you already spend.

Energy isn’t just what you pay for on your electric bill.  Each time you fill up your gas tank you are paying for energy.  Every time you throw food out because you didn’t have time to cook it, guess what?  You are throwing money away in two ways…either the work you put into the food or the cost of it, or the cost of fuel to go buy it (I warned you we were going to take the big picture approach). There’s a lot you can do to save money on energy without breaking the bank.

curtains-Save Big on Energy BillsMake good use of your windows, curtains and blinds

You have to love those glorious cooler nights or mornings that you can have your windows open in the summer.  But be sure to close them up before you leave the home for the day when it is supposed to be warmer throughout the day. Having your curtains or blinds open in the morning to get natural light into your home cuts back on energy use.  But if you are going to be gone until the afternoon or early evening, consider closing them before you leave to keep the heat out. This is especially helpful with large windows, when living in upper level apartments, or on ground level homes near black top drives or lots.

fan-Save Big on Energy BillsRelease the heat before you try to cool

This is an often overlooked tip out there in the big, big world of the web and it works. You know what it is like when you get in your car after it has been parked in the sun for several hours?  The smart thing to do is to lower a few windows to let that heat escape even if it is sweltering, kick on the ac and keep the windows down for few before you close them up so the cool air pushes the heat out.

You should use the same principle in your house or apartment. The best way for this to work when the outside air is extremely humid and you come home to a stuffy,hot house is to position small fan in one window blowing out.  The force keeps the hot air from coming in and it sucks the hot air out of your house. Once you feel a bit of a difference then kick your air conditioner or central air on and leave that fan running in that window for a few more minutes until you feel a noticeable difference.  You will find that you are able to cool your home back down much faster than if you try to start cooling it without releasing the heat. This can be helpful for those living in apartments where opening up a vent in the attic or installing an attic exhaust fan isn’t an option.

splash-Save Big on Energy BillsFocus on water usage

This is a big one. Step one is to make sure your water heater is set to no more than 120 degrees.  This is smart when you have kids in the home anyway for safety reasons. But heating water for showers uses a large amount of energy and when your hot water is set higher, you use more. According to energy.gov most manufacturers will have the temp set at 140 and you can lower your costs annually by reducing the setting.  Check out the article…

Savings project: Lower water heating temperature

The second step is to cut back on how much hot water you use.

  • Enforce the quick shower option. This is especially important during the summer months when we tend to shower more often (before work, meeting friends, and then again after working outside, etc.).
  • Wash laundry in cold water. Do full loads rather than small loads to conserve energy.  With today’s laundry products there is really no need to wash your clothes and household laundry items for normal use in hot water. Plus it saves time on color sorting and produces less heat in the laundry space.
  • Only wash full dishwasher loads of dishes. Statistics show that using a dishwasher actually uses less water than doing dishes by hand.  But if you only have a handful of dishes you need washed up, then simply run a bowl full of soapy water in your sink and hand wash them and fill once more with clean water to rinse. And while we are on the subject of dishwasher, don’t use the dry cycle. You can turn off the dishwasher after the rinse or change your settings. By cracking the door it allows the steam to escape and the dishes to air dry.

Rethink how you shop, prepare food and cook

food-Save Big on Energy Bills

This may not be on your radar when thinking about cutting cooling costs and saving energy in the summer.  But it is a fairly simple way to save money and live better. Instead of loading up on the classic prepackaged food items that come to mind when thinking about a house full of extra kids and covering more lunches and snacks at home…items such as chicken nuggets, frozen fries, frozen pizzas, etc. think outside the box. Most of these items are best out of the oven and using the oven heats up your kitchen. It’s ok to come home and throw in a frozen pizza after a long day at work on occassion or grab take out but you don’t want this to be a daily habit. Save the take out days for the best use…days you are exhausted, have a lot going on, or it’s simply so hot no other option seems real.

  • Buy fresh vegetables, clean them, and have them accessible in the fridge to grab on the go. I’ve found that if I have storage containers with cut up celery, carrots, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. in my fridge the kids will grab these items for snacks.
  • Double bonus…having veggies cleaned in advance makes it easy to come home and rock out a quick stir fry or other one skillet meal that saves time and keeps the oven out of the equation. Also perfect prep for grilling.
  • Speaking of grilling, sometimes firing up the grill may take a bit more time. But plan ahead and grill extra food for everyone to have access to for the next few days. All leftover meat tastes better of the grill. So if you are grilling burgers on Sunday throw on some chicken, steak or pork and have meat prepared for main course salads, stir fry, or sandwiches throughout the week.
  • The power of fruit. Fruits are good nutritious choices and help cool you down on hot days. Instead of heating up your oven to bake a cake or cookies for a sweet treat after dinner, fresh fruit drizzled with a little chocolate, transforming yogurt into a parfait, or simply tossing berries with a bit of lemon juice and sugar and serving on it’s own or over a bit of ice cream will be sure to satisfy the dessert craving without heating up your kitchen.
  • The deli can be your friend during the hottest months of the year. Chances are the options are much healthier than fast food and voila..dinner.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water is important every day. Drinking water in the summer months is even more important because it will help cool your body internally.

walk-Save Big on Energy BillsCarpooling, ridesharing, and sensible trips

Whenever you fuel up at the pump you are spending cash on energy that you could cut back on.  And obviously this helps out with our overall carbon footprint while saving cash. The summer months can be a crazy busy time for a lot of families, but with some planning you can cut costs and keep your sanity.

  • Set boundaries on how much running you are willing to do. Kids are persuasive and they need friends and activities.  But there is nothing wrong with setting reasonable boundaries.
  • If you have kids involved in swimming lessons, sporting events, programs at a local park etc. partner up with other parents. Why should three moms and two dads who all live ten minutes away from one another all fuel up, cool their vehicles down and drive 20 minutes one way to an activity making the total cost of the trip five times that of what it could be for everyone if you took turns?
  • Make use of public transportation whenever possible.
  • Take advantage of the nicer weather and walk or ride a bike.
  • Make your trips count.  Afterall in the summer months we want more time to do things outside. So consider keeping your trips for non-perishable items you need limited by shopping for these items a few times a month and buying items in bulk or larger containers.  5 points for packaging reduction as well.

clothespin-Save Big on Energy BillsWork with the weather not against it whenever possible

It is usually cooler in the mornings and evenings. So it makes sense that you usually want to do your outdoor work during this time. But strike a balance with your indoor housework too. It makes sense to run your dryer at night when it is cooler so the heat from the dryer is less of a burden. And if you live in a place where you can have a clothesline to use often it will cut down on energy costs and help keep your home cooler. The clothesline is a bit of a forgotten way of life. All you need is some twine to run between two trees and a stick to support the weight. Just using one for any blankets, sleeping bags, and comforters can save you money. On a hot day it’s amazing how fast a heavy blanket will dry on a line.

  • Do housework early in the morning or late at night to avoid running appliances that produce heat during the heat of the day.
  • Do yard work early in the morning or late in the evening to keep your body cooler to avoid coming in and running the air down further.
  • Simply spend more time outside.
  • When you have a social gathering that is mainly outside, be sure to turn your air conditioners down or off if there is a constant flow of people coming in and out.
  • If you are a gardener of have outdoor plants, make good use of the rainwater by paying attention to the weather.

Clean air conditioners, air filters and fans

fans-Save Big on Energy Bills

According to Power to Change, keeping your home cooling system set to 78 degrees rather than 72 can lower your energy bill by 20%.  That’s a substantial savings. And using fans instead of an air conditioner or air system whenever possible will also lower your overall cooling costs. Maintaining and cleaning these items so your systems and fans work to the best of their ability is also key to saving money on energy. Dirty systems and filters clogged with pet hair or dust is not only bad for your health, it leads to inefficient performance and possible overheating. You should clean or replace air filters monthly. For more info on how to maintain these systems check out the following…

Energy Savings from Spring Cleaning

Green Plus: HVAC Efficiency

Energy Star: Maintenance Checklist

Clean appliances and check for proper ventilation

coilsSave Big on Energy Bills

This is a basic cleaning routine that will save you money on energy and keep you from replacing items too soon due to poor maintenance.

  • Refrigerators should be moved out, cleaned behind, and coils cleaned at least once a year.
  • Dryer vents should be maintained and lint traps should be cleaned out with each use.
  • Clean dust from the backs of televisions, computer equipment, stereos, cable and satellite boxes, etc. Basically electricity attracts dust. And dust causes overheating which can lead to electronics putting off too much heat, burning up, or poor performance.
  • Clean your dishwasher filter

This last one is something I had no clue how to do.  This may be helpful to you:

Why you need to clean the filter in your dishwasher

computer-Save Big on Energy BillsConsider the art of the temporary work and play space

Working with the spaces in and outside your home can help save you money on energy bills. If you do not have a lot of outdoor space to work with where you live remember there are other options.

  • Spend time working on paperwork or a tablet or laptop at a local coffee shop, pub or in a park.
  • If your office space is in an upstairs room and it’s too hot see if you can rework your space or move downstairs temporarily.
  • Rethink basement spaces to maximize your living space or convert half of it into a playroom for a summertime getaway for the kids.
  • Throw a blanket down under a tree and drag out some toys for the little ones.
  • If you have a garage can you clean it out and use the space differently?  Garages are awesome workspaces in the summer. They tend to feel cooler, they keep you dry, and you can always lift the door part way for ventilation and still keep the rain out.

shade-Save Big on Energy BillsUse trees and plants to help cut back on cooling costs

For the homeowner, using trees and smart landscaping choices can significantly help cool both your indoor and outdoor living spaces. In addition to other benefits, trees provide much needed shade around decks and patios, around the outdoor components of central air systems, can  help shade parking areas to keep your vehicles cooler, and give you more places to hang out outside and get out of the sun.  Bonus for scavenging landscape redos at retail and commercial buildings.  Don’t be afraid to ask what they are doing with the perfectly healthy trees being tossed in the back of that truck. For more ideas and strategies check this out..

Cool Your House with Smart Landscaping – Bob Vila

For more reading on saving  money on your energy bills and keeping your home cooler during the summer months check these out…

23 Tips for Keeping the House Cool – Annie B. Bond

Energy.gov – Tips: Heating and Cooling

Green Tips for a Cool Summer

Be sure to check out this article from Sustainable Baby Steps and give their facebook page a like.
Got more tips for beating the heat without breaking the bank?  Cool resources? Give us a comment and help spread the word about ways we can all save energy, help out the environment and save money on energy bills this summer.  

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