Tricks to Save on the Summer Electric Bill

The following guest post is from PT of PTMoney.com.

It’s almost summer time! Are you ready? I’m ready for the nice, long days. But I can’t say I’m ready for the oppressive Texas heat. One of only things I truly dislike about this time of year is the electric bill. No matter how hard I try each summer it seems like I still end up with ridiculous energy bills. But I’ll never stop trying to keep these costs down. If you’re like me, and want to win the war against this summer’s heat, here are a few tricks for keeping energy bills down.

Change the A/C Filter – This is a quick and easy fix, and really something you should be doing already. A dirty filter can restrict airflow and make your unit work harder. Maintenance varies from unit to unit, but typical recommendations are to change the filter once a month.

Keep Some Windows Covered – Summer afternoons and evenings can be brutal on the western and southern ends of your house. Make sure you keep windows on that side of the house covered with drapes. At a minimum, close the shutters, which will reflect some of the heat.

Consider a Whole House Fan – I don’t own one of these, because I live in Texas and the heat is too much for it. But I hear they are an effective way to cool a house in more moderate climates. The idea is to bring in the cooler air through the windows, and expelling the hot air out through the attic.

Use More Fans – If a whole house fan isn’t in your future, then at least make sure you’re using your other fans effectively. Ensure you’ve switched the fan circulation back from winter mode. Summer mode is counter-clockwise. This will push the air down. To be effective, you have to be in the room with your fan. So make sure you turn off the fan when you leave a room.

Install a Smart Power Strip – By installing one of these power strips, you’ll eliminate the vampire power that’s sucking money from you even when you’re not there in the home or using your electronic devices. Simply unplugging your devices also works.

Plant a Tree Near Your Home – This won’t exactly work overnight, but you’ll reap the rewards for years to come. As much as 11% in savings some studies say. For a more immediate effect, plant a tree to shade your outside air conditioning unit. The extra shade helps the unit to be more efficient.

Get Out of the House – Look for more opportunities to get out of the house this summer. Plan your trips in the afternoon, when the heat is the most intense. Head to the grocery store, the pool, the library, or even the mall, which sometimes have indoor play areas for your kids. Although, be sure that this routine trip to the mall doesn’t end up costing you more than your energy savings.

Cook Outside More – In the summer months plan to do more of your cooking outside on the grill. This will keep your house cooler because you’ll be using the oven and range less. I like my steaks cooked in the oven, but I’ll settle for the grill if it means a cooler house.

You can actually reduce heater and air conditioning expense by regulating humidity with home dehumidifiers. You will find that sometimes the dampness is the most uncomfortable.

I’d love to hear your ideas for saving on energy bills this summer. Share them in the comments below…

Read more money saving tips by PT over at PT Money: Personal Finance. Lately, PT has been covering the topics of mortgages, online savings accounts, insurance, and beginning investing.

Comments

  1. These are all great ideas!
    Here are two more:
    Water heater. Lower your water heater from 140 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For every 10 degrees the temperature is lowered, you can save 3 to 5 percent in energy costs. (who needs hot, hot, showers in the summer?)
    Programmable thermostat. If there are certain times of day that you are always out of the house, a programmable thermostat will turn the air off while you are gone and put it back on shortly before you return.

    • @Suzanne: Excellent point! Hot water heaters are one of the biggest culprits in high utility costs. I’d also add that an insulating blanket/wrap made for water heaters may also help – particularly in colder climates and where water heaters are stored exposed to cooler, outside temps.

    • Took the words out of my mouth (fingers?) Suzanne. Our water heater is set as low as possible while still maintaining a ‘comfortable’ temperature.

      No reason to have your water hot enough to burn someone.

  2. The tree is actually a great idea. Unfortunately my wife isn’t too keen on me planting a giant shade tree smack dab in the middle of our front yard. Our house faces south so the sun beats down on the front of the house all day long. Makes for a toasting evening in the front bedroom, even with the AC on. A shade tree would work wonders on my AC bill. I guess I will just have to stick with my programmable thermostat and desk fan.

  3. My sister bought a toaster oven for her back porch. Why heat the house with an oven when you want a brownie?
    Those “Hawaiian breeze” tower fans are amazing. Keeping your feet cool is key and tower fans do that.
    Take an afternoon nap- that is Siesta time in most of the warm world.
    Take a cool shower midday.
    Go one step further and put a quilt in your hottest window. It is prettier than those darn reflective screens.
    Try to go to work later in the day. The hottest time of day is around 4pm.
    Best yet- go to SanDiego in late July and see all of the Arizonans (Zonies we are called) at the beach. It is so prevalent that it is in the AZ history books!

  4. 1. Get your AC unit tuned-up every other year, if possible.
    2. If you are in the market for a larger house, buy a house w/dual-zone AC. This helps to beat the heat on the 2nd floor without over-cooling the lower floor.
    3. Fresh/frozen fruit smoothies.

  5. I love the idea of seeking free AC during the hottest time of the day. My husband and I would go see a movie or even just walk through the mall.

  6. I hang my laundry on a clothesline as soon as the weather allows (I live in Wisconsin, so the season is about April- October.) It does take commitment and time, but the savings are worth it to me. Maybe not all neighborhoods allow them, but I have a space saving umbrella clothes line that cost about $50 at a home improvement store. I feel good that I am saving $$ and being kind to the environment.

  7. Another thing to consider may be a whole-house dehumidifier. I was actually looking into this over the weekend because of the dampness in our basement. While researching, I found out that not only do dehumidifiers prevent mold, but will also reduce your cooling bill.

    I cannot vouch for the dehumidifier personally, but I do know a lot of times in the summer, I run my AC to get the humidity out of the house. Dehumidifiers can be expensive though, but thought I would just mention it.

  8. Try using a crock pot to cook meals. They use less energy then an oven and generate a lot less heat therefore keeping your kitchen cool. There are a ton of great summer delights that can be done in a crock pot: chili, sloppy joes, jambalaya, etc.

  9. This summer I plan on installing a radiant barrier in the attic. A radiant barrier is basically like a huge sheet of aluminum foil that you staple to the rafters in your attic. Its is cheap, lasts the lifetime of your house and needs no maintenance. It works like a space blanket, reflecting much of the heat back out your roof. Its sort of like putting your entire house in the shade. I can’t yet testify to the savings but everything I have read says it can reduce heating and cooling bills by up to a third,

  10. hehe…some good tips there, but not a problem we suffer from here in the UK. Of course, our biggest bills (gas and electricity) come in the Winter. I pull out my thermal underwear – probably the best investment I ever made. :)

  11. If you live in a house with a finished basement, spend more time there. I set my t-stat at 80 degrees upstairs and the basement (a walkout) is a comfy 68-70 all summer long.

    Not sure if going to see a movie ($5 for a matinee, even $2.50 at the “dollar” theater) will net out savings vs. utility bills over the long haul, but is sure is more fun than staying home an sweltering. Try the public library for a truly inexpensive experience.

  12. Great tips! Here are a few more:

    1. If you have a gas heater, call the gas company to come out and turn off the pilot light.

    2. Box fans placed in open windows do a great job of circulating air and keep rooms cool (it’s pretty much how I survive summers!).

    3. Ceiling fans also do a good job of keeping things cool.

    • My mom sets a fan in her bedroom window to suck air IN, then one in the hall way, and one in the slider in the DR to push air OUT. there is a constant breeze throughout the house. works well as long as it’s not over 90 degrees with 90% humidity.

  13. Great comments and extra tips everyone. Keep em coming. I really like the crock pot idea. I’ll have to try that. And the radiant barrier is constantly being advertised here in Texas. I’ve always wondered if they truly help. Sounds like a good blog post idea.

    • One of our favorite meals is a Boston Butt rubbed with some garlic salt and slow-cooked in the crock pot all day with a cup of water. I’m telling you…the most tender pulled pork sandwiches you’ll ever eat!

  14. Great tips, I have employed a few of them in my time. I tried to convince my roomies to take ‘cool’ showers instead of hot showers, that never goes over too well. But I always take cool showers in the summer. I like to think that helps!

    I agree with you on the fans as well. Those can REALLY work wonders. haha, I’m just picturing my set up – I have an industrial work fan that I place on my desk before I got to bed. It’s perfectly positioned right on me while I sleep, I’m cool all night, AC or no AC!

  15. We only have window AC units in the kids rooms, on the hottest nights i have the kids all sleep in one room – the one with the most efficient unit. That way i’m not running two units and they think of it as a camp out.

  16. Some power companies will give you a discount if you agree to do heat producing/energy sucking things (such as laundry) only after dark. I used to do this before I moved, I’d cook after dark and microwave it the next day so the oven/range weren’t heating the house. Also speaking of cooking, it is also frugal to cook one big meal that you can divide into several meals so you are just heating the house once as opposed to 2-3 times. If you don’t like too many left-overs, team up with a friend, each cook a large meal and trade half of each. The key is to use heat producing appliciances less frequently.

  17. We leave what windows we can open all night, then we open the rest in the morning, non sun side only. We can get the house pretty chilly first thing. Then I close the house up tight. I can save at least 3-5 hours off our AC everyday.

  18. If you are using window AC units, consider investing in ‘mini-splits’, they are very efficient heat-pumps with heating/cooling heads in each room. They are permanently mounted – not stuck in window with gaps all around like window units. Also, they are much more reliable. I have to buy new window units every 2-3 years since they just don’t last. Mini-splits have been used for years in countries where the cost of electricity is high.

  19. Here’s a fairly big one: Replace your old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs. In 2002, I started putting CFLs in my light fixtures as the old bulbs burned out (they cost a lot more then). Savings will vary, but in my case, the CFLs are saving me several dollars a month.

    I’m excited about LED bulbs. Home Depot is about to start selling a 40W equivalent bulb for $20. Obviously that’s still too dim and too expensive to warrant replacing every bulb with LEDs, but to get light for just 8 watts, I’ll buy a couple to try out.

  20. According to the Department of Energy study, the average sized home consumes about three times more energy than in 1960. The causes are multiple, including home size has increased, but an explosion in the number of electronic gadgets and plug into the top of the list. Thank you to the central air and heat, we now expect our house to stay a constant temperature year round.

  21. If you find yourself without air conditioning (as I did for a few 100-degree days a couple of summers ago), sleeping nude with a damp towel or two REALLY helps. So does drinking lots of water, avoiding physical activity and wearing next to nothing. I’ve heard that putting a pan of ice or cold water in front of a box fan helps too.

    If you feel even slightly nauseous from the heat, get into air conditioning immediately. Go to a movie, mall, library or store. Spring for a cheap hotel room, or sit in an ER waiting room until it cools off.

    Avoid using appliances between noon and 6 p.m. Vaccuuming, washing clothes or doing dishes heats up your body as well as the house. Give the water heater a “vacation” by turning it down till evening.

  22. Regarding the A/C bill in the summer – our home faces South/Southwest and we live in the deep south so it gets extremely hot – heat indexes of 115. So I bought Outdoor porch blinds and hung them around the entire porch. I lower them 1/3 of the way and it’s amazing how much heat has been deterred from the front windows and door! Best frugal move for the summer this year!

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