By Carrie Brazeal, TSB Contributor
Even though it’s nearly the end of July, we still have lots of summer and hot temperatures left. We haven’t had as hot a summer as we did last year (thank goodness!) but it’s still hot enough to need air conditioning. I always get on an energy-saving campaign at my house during this time of year. Not only am I trying to be a good environmentalist, but I am trying to reduce my overall electrical use, thus decreasing my monthly bill. I am also trying to install good habits in my young adult children, who now are paying their own electric bill.
Whether your motive to reduce electrical usage is environmental or financial (or both), here are a few suggestions from the U.S. Department of Energy (http://www1.eere.energy.gov):
*Set your thermostat as high as is comfortable. Clean or replace the filter once a month or as suggested by the manufacturer.
*Turn off kitchen, bath and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are finished cooking or bathing. When replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
*Keep window coverings closed during the day to prevent solar gain. I always keep my blinds closed during the summer and it makes a big difference in the temperature of the house.
*Install a programmable thermostat to keep your house comfortable year round. My thermostat is set about 5 degrees higher in the summer during those hours when no one is at home. I program it so that it’s cool when I get home in the afternoon.
*Run ceiling and other fans only when someone is in the room. Even though fans only cost pennies to operate, you are still using electricity and no one is benefitting,
*Switch to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). They use less wattage for the same amount of light and produce much less heat, which is important with our hot, humid weather. Even though the initial purchase price is more, these bulbs last a lot longer than regular bulbs, thus decreasing the overall cost. And you don’t have to change them as often. I have bulbs that are at least 6 years old.
*Get rid of extra refrigerators and freezers that are in the garage. Most are not energy efficient and require more energy to keep them cool since they are in such a hot environment. Consider how often you really use them when making this decision. I really only use mine around the holidays so it’s not very cost effective when I think about actual use.
*Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying circle.
*Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use. It only takes a few minutes to power it up.
*Many kitchen appliances have lights and clocks on them. If you don’t need to set the appliance to come on automatically or if you don’t use it daily, unplug it.
*Plug home appliances such as TVs and DVD players into power strips. Turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use. TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power.
*Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120 degrees. You can also put a timer on your hot water heater. My timers come on early morning for showers, turn off during the day when no one is home and come back on later in the afternoon so hot water is available for cooking, laundry and running the dishwasher. After nighttime showers, it’s off again.
*Take short showers instead of baths.
*Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes. Hand wash only those items that are too big or shouldn’t go into the dishwasher.
The typical U.S. family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills. A large portion of that energy is wasted. Electricity generated by fossil fuels for a single home puts more carbon dioxide into the air than two average cars. So, knowing all of this, what do you plan to do today to help lower your energy use, thus lowering your monthly bill? Think about it.
Carrie T. Brazeal is the Family and Consumer Sciences agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 972. 424.1460, Ext. 4233.