With Austin being America’s fastest-growing city, this means more energy consumption occurs, which is why it is crucial that we all work to minimize our household energy usage during the hot summer months. Many of us come home from a long day and immediately lower the thermostat without thinking of the consequences this might have on our bills and environment.
Summer can be a very expensive time of the year. According to Austin Energy, air conditioning represents up to 70% of the average home’s summer electricity bill. Air conditioning may be the largest slice of the electricity bill pie, but other components like energy-powered light fixtures and heat-powered appliances, such as washers and dryers, are also important to consider when thinking about your summertime energy consumption and bills.
On average, a U.S. household spends $5,550 a year on energy—this is a serious concern considering 21% of Austinites have incomes below $25,000 a year. Knowing how to be energy-efficient not only helps the environment and economy, but will also help save you money. Here are some simple tips to help you save this summer:
- 78 Is the Magic Number
- Turning off your thermostat during the summer forces your air conditioning unit to work long and hard when you return. When you are home, you should set your thermostat to 78 degrees. According to Austin Energy, your bill increase by 3 to 4% for each degree lower than 78. If you have a programmable thermostat, you have a bit more flexibility and can store and repeat multiple daily settings, which is highly recommended.
- Use Fans as an Alternative
- Keep cool by using ceiling and window fans to eliminate the use of air conditioning. Depending on the time of the day, ceiling and window fans may work just as well as air conditioning and will use far less electricity. Window fans are most appropriate when it has cooled down outside, like in the evening, and allow for cooler outside air to come inside a room. Another inexpensive substitute to air conditioning is simply opening up your windows and using natural ventilation.
- Use Your Appliances in the Early Mornings or Late Evenings
- It is important to reduce your appliance usage during hot afternoons. Any appliances that produce heat such as your stove, dryer and dishwasher should be used early in the morning or late in the evenings when temperatures are much cooler. When running the dishwasher, washer and dryer, run complete loads and use try to use cold water for all three appliances. Consider using your microwave oven instead of a stove for meals because microwaves use less than half of the energy an oven uses. Grilling meals outside is another energy-efficient alternative for cooking during summer months.
- Clean and Replace Your Air Filters
- According to Alliance to Save Energy, one filter change per season can reduce your energy consumption by up to 15 percent. It is also recommended to wash your reusable filter or replace your disposable filter once per month during the summertime in order to optimize your central AC unit. If your filter is clogged, your AC unit will run longer.
- Use Natural Lighting or Energy Saving Light Bulbs
- During the day, you can be extra energy-efficient by taking advantage of your home’s natural lighting. Open your curtains, pull up your blinds and allow the sun do its thing. The more natural light, the less you have to rely on energy-powered light fixtures. Of course daylight is not always available or convenient, but fortunately there are energy-efficient light bulbs called lumens . Lumens will save you energy and money while still maintaining good light quantity and quality. Other energy-efficient light bulb alternatives include compact fluorescents, light emitting diodes and energy-saving incandescent light bulbs.
- Reduce Hot Water Usage
- You can save a significant amount of money by monitoring your hot water usage. Try to take colder (or at least less scalding) showers and use cold water when washing clothes and dishes. It is important to check for any leaks in fixtures as well. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month.
- Air-dry Your Clothes Instead of Using a Dryer
- According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of Americans believe a clothes dryer is a “necessity” in 2006. More recently however, more Americans consider a dryer to no longer be essential and are turning to greener alternatives, such as air-drying their clothes. Three out of four households in the U.S. own a clothes dryer, whereas in Europe only about half of the households own one. There are many benefits to air-drying your clothes that will not only reduce your energy consumption but also your electricity bill. So don’t be afraid to go out there, start a line and dry your clothes in the warm sunshine!
Substantial savings are possible when adopting these energy-efficient practices that will also help improve the comfort of your home. Summertime spending can be extra hard on those who are struggling to make ends met. This is why it is critical to be aware of these inexpensive and simple ways to save money during the hot months. When we conserve energy resources, we can save money and reduce our carbon footprint. Let’s try our best keep Austin energy-efficient and save a some of our own hard-earned money!