The cooler weather is coming (hooray!). But it’s still on the hot side. Even in October, temperatures from Gilbert to Mesa, Arizona, can reach the high 90s. So it can be difficult to keep energy costs low: We see many residents running their air conditioners year round, and their electric bills are some of the highest nationwide. Fortunately, it is possible to make lower energy costs a reality with some of our simple techniques and changes that can truly impact those sky-high energy bills.
1. Check the fireplace.
We often see residents who forget that they have fireplaces in the extreme heat and who leave the damper open. This lets the cool air produced by the air conditioner escape from the home, wasting valuable energy.
2. Keep the drapes and curtains closed.
It is a simple change, but we really recommend keeping the home’s windows covered as much as possible, even during extremely hot days. The curtains act as a barrier against the heat, keeping more of it outside the house rather than inside. This means that the air conditioner does not have to run quite as hard.
3. Switch the air conditioning fan to the automatic setting.
When the conditioner is set to “on” all the time, the fan motor is constantly running and burning energy whether the air conditioner is pushing out cool air or not. Flipping the switch to “auto” allows the fan motor to shut off when the unit is no longer cooling. This method can save up to $25 each month in energy costs.
4. Set the thermostat higher.
Many people do not want to listen to us on this one because it involves making the home warmer, but remember that Arizona is frequently reaching temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature below that for a home will automatically seem cooler. A resident can save about 2-3 percent of his or her bill with each degree above 80 on the thermostat. This means that keeping a home at 83 degrees every day, which is definitely cooler than the outdoor temperature, will save 6-9 percent of the bill regularly.
5. Face ceiling fans downward.
Most of the homes we see feature ceiling fans because they are the best way to get the air moving in a home. Turning these fans so that they are blowing their air downward and are circulating the air around the room can help move the cool air more efficiently than by the air conditioner alone. This air movement means that the thermostat can be set a little higher and that the air conditioner does not have to use as much energy.
6. Planning the best time to do chores throughout the day.
While running the oven or the clothes dryer should definitely be done in the early or morning or after dark, when the air is coolest and homes are least likely to maintain the heat, there are other chores that can help cool the house during the day. For example, we recommend completing moisture-producing chores, such as mopping floors or washing clothes, first thing in the morning using cold water so that the cool, moist air is held in the home throughout the day.
7. Watch bathroom use.
Obviously, we know that residents cannot avoid using the bathroom all day. However, bathroom activities account for some of the greatest heat-producing actions in a home. Taking short and lukewarm showers rather than baths can help reduce the amount of hot humidity in the home. Likewise, running a fan in the bathroom will help circulate this air although that fan should be switched off as soon as possible after the shower.
8. Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs.
Because it would be expensive to replace all of a home’s bulbs at once, we suggest switching the most frequently used bulbs to CFL ones that will use less energy and save more money first. This process can be continued until the entire home is converted.
9. Paint interior walls lighter colors.
Most people know that darker colors can attract heat and make a room feel more enclosed. Therefore, we recommend painting interior rooms lighter colors to help keep them cooler. In addition, this light color will prevent rooms from feeling too dark with the curtains closed (see tip #2).
10. Plan meal prep to prevent overheating.
Opening the refrigerator door can cause the appliance to lose 30 percent of its cool air each time. This makes the refrigerator run more and use more energy. Preheating an oven too far in advance not only wastes energy, but it also adds heat to the home. Opening a door to repeatedly check on the grill outside lets in additional heat to the home. Each of these actions can be reduced in frequency and can be planned in such a way so as to not add heat or energy costs.
A decent portion of your monthly electricity bills can be cut when dishes are not put through the heat-drying cycle and clothes are not tossed and fluffed to complete dryness. Placing dishes in a drying rack and hanging clothes either outside or inside to dry will keep the home cooler.
12. Turn off lights, appliances and electronics when not in use.
It seems obvious, but it is surprising how many residents we know that do not take the time to turn off lights when they leave a room or to unplug appliances when they are not in use. These simple actions will gather electricity savings over time, not to mention the heat savings that will occur when hot bulbs and electronics are not constantly running.