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9 Top Tips for a Lower Summer Energy Bill

By Adam Newton

We all know that summer in Texas is hot. And when it is hot, we have the air conditioning going. We have the ceiling fans going. And we use a lot of electricity.

Residential electricity consumption can jump from 25% on a moderate day to 50% on a hot summer day, according to ERCOT.  Since most days in the summer are hot, that 50% increase in electricity usage results in some larger than expected electricity bills.  Everyone agrees it is hot, and we want a lower summer energy bill.

You don’t have to live in a hot, uncomfortable house all summer to achieve a smaller electricity bill. With our nine super suggestions, you can manage your energy usage and enjoy air conditioning n a comfortable home.

1) Use Effective Thermostat Settings

Per the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioner (HVAC) system accounts for about 50% of home electricity usage. This means that your thermostat has the most significant influence on the size of your energy bill.

We recommend using the following thermostat settings for our tips to lower your energy usage all summer.

  • 75 °F during the day when people are home
  • 78-80 °F during the day when people are out of the house for more than 2 hours
  • 75-78 °F at night when people are home
  • 80-85 °F when people are out of the house for more than one day

Introduce these temperatures by raising your thermostat one degree at a time every few days over two weeks. This will give your family’s—and pets’—bodies time to adapt without making them uncomfortable with a hard transition.

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2) Get an HVAC Tune-up

Guess what? Even with those higher, more energy-efficient thermostat settings, your air conditioner will work hard to cool your home. To ensure efficient operation, contact your HVAC repair company to schedule a tune-up for your entire system – air conditioner, ducts, and everything in between. The last thing you want is for your air conditioner to break because you skipped a bit of minor maintenance.

3) Replace Your Air Conditioner Filter

For another way to take care of your air conditioning in the summer, you should change the air filter every single month. Since your AC is working extra-hard, the filter will get dirtier than usual, and a dirty filter decreases airflow. That means your air conditioner is working harder than usual, which increases the chance of breaking when you need it most.

Some high-efficiency air conditioners don’t need a new filter every month. Consult your unit’s owner’s manual to follow the manufacturer’s best practices.

4) Eliminate Drafts

To improve your air conditioner efficiency even further, you should check your doors and windows for possible leaks and drafts. If your home isn’t well-sealed, you’re letting warm summer air in and cool air out. This means your home won’t achieve the target temperature setting on your thermostat.

Consequently, your air conditioner will keep running in vain to maintain that temperature. Such behavior will increase the chances of your AC breaking when you need it most – and it’s running up your summer energy bills.

Thankfully, checking for drafts is easy:

  • Place a piece of paper between your door and door frame and close the door. If you can easily remove that piece of paper, you should replace the weatherstripping around your door.
  • Place a piece of paper on your window sill and close the window on top of it. If you can easily remove that piece of paper, you should replace the weatherstripping around your door.
  • Check the weatherstripping of your doors and windows for cracks and breaks.

To fix these problems, install new weatherstripping around your doors and windows. Some fresh caulk around your windows would be a good idea, too.

5) Improve Your Insulation

New insulation will be a boon to your HVAC system. That’s right – insulation does more than keep your home warm in the winter. Good insulation regulates temperatures in your home all year long, and it helps your air conditioner work more effectively.

Per EnergyStar.gov, your Texas home should have minimum insulation of R30 with an upper range of R60. Your current insulation levels depend on how much you need to add to reach that threshold. We recommend contacting a licensed HVAC professional to audit your home.

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6) Install a Programmable Thermostat

It’s time to upgrade your thermostat. While you don’t need a top-of-the-line, high-tech model with Internet connectivity and a smartphone app, you do need one you can program.

Most of us are out of the house for a good chunk of time every day, so you should use the thermostat settings in Tip 1. However, most people have a “set it and forget it” mentality about their thermostats, so you could forget to use them every day.

With a programmable thermostat, you can tell your device when and how to change the temperature settings to match your schedule. This way, you can be secure because your air conditioner isn’t cooling an empty house, and you’re using less energy.

7) Use Your Fans

As an additional follow-up to tip #1, fans help the people living in your home adjust to warmer temperature settings. In the summer, set your ceiling fans to run counter-clockwise so they blow air down into the room. You can also use a standard oscillating fan in rooms without ceiling fans.

To be clear, these fans don’t make your home cooler. They generate a crucial cross-breeze in your home that regularly pushes air across people’s skin. This airflow cools down the skin, so you don’t need to lower the thermostat.

8) Install Blinds and Curtains on Your Windows

Most of us love the sunlight in the summer. It enhances your mood after a rainy spring and brightens your home without overhead lighting. However, all of that sunlight can increase your home’s temperature, causing you to run your air conditioner more. Even though you use less electricity by not using lights, you’re still using more with that AC blasting cold air.

Adding blinds and curtains to any mid-sized or large windows will keep out direct sunlight during the day’s heat. This will enhance the effectiveness of how the fans in tip #7 cool everyone’s skin.

9) Use Electricity Efficiently

Appliances like your dishwasher, washer, and dryer add ambient heat to your home, raising your home’s temperature. This keeps your air conditioner constantly running instead of cycling on and off per normal operations.

You should avoid doing heavy chores when it’s hot outside. We recommend washing dishes, doing laundry, or anything that requires lots of electricity before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m.

It would be best to look for alternatives to using your stove and oven during the hottest parts of summer. Smaller options like slow cookers and microwaves can cook as well as your heavy appliances – and with using less electricity and generating less heat.

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Assessing the Impact on Your Summer Energy Bill

If it weren’t obvious, anything you can do to reduce your air conditioner usage would lower your summer energy bills. You might have noticed that some of these suggestions cost money. We can hear readers asking us,

“How can I save money with lower electricity bills if I’m paying all of this money to make these improvements?”

While that’s a fair question, our recommendations are designed to be short-time costs that bring long-term benefits outside of summer bills. For example:

  • Adding insulation will help your bills throughout the year
  • The programmable thermostat will improve your overall HVAC efficiency
  • Those air filters will extend the life of your HVAC

While lower summer electricity usage will reduce the size of your bills, we aren’t recommending that you sit in the sweltering heat to save a few bucks. Instead, keep your home at temperature levels where everyone is comfortable, and be sensible with your air conditioner.

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