Start by setting your thermostat a few degrees higher. The savings on your cooling bill should be 1 to 3 percent for each degree you raise the temperature. Many experts suggest 78 degrees as an appropriate indoor temperature, but keep in mind that there’s a limit to how high you can raise your thermostat without becoming too uncomfortable – and instigating a rebellion by your family!
Then try incorporating several of these no-cost tips into your daily routine.
Keep your cool in living areas
- Stop the sun’s warmth from getting into your home by closing blinds and curtains during the day. Light colors will reflect the most heat.
- Avoid sitting near a sun-exposed wall (particularly brick or masonry) during sunny afternoons. Wall insulation is effective for blocking conductive heat gain, but not radiant heat. So, when the outside wall gets hot in the sun, the radiant heat will come right through the wall to your skin, making the area feel a couple of degrees warmer than the actual room air temperature.
- Keep interior lights dimmed or turned off during daylight hours. However, turning on a table lamp for reading in a darkened room is a better choice than letting the sun stream in through a south or west window. On the other hand, north or east windows could provide enough light without significantly adding to the heat gain in an individual room.
- Turn off or unplug the television, entertainment equipment and computer when not in use. Many of these devices consume power and produce heat in the standby mode, so unplug them if you won’t be using them for several days. The only way to turn off the power supply for a device such as a cordless phone or cable TV or satellite box is to unplug it.
- Remember to unplug chargers for your cell phone, tablet and other electrical devices when they’re not being used. Even though chargers only use a small amount of electricity, they generate heat that quickly can add up in a room.
Take advantage of windows
- Try a few tests to find out which windows will maximize natural ventilation. The wind creates areas of positive and negative pressure around your house, so windows near upwind areas will be cool air inlets and windows near suction areas will be warm air outlets. Slightly opened windows will create a better air current than fully opened ones.
- If air needs to take a longer path between windows, more of your house will be cooled. Don’t locate inlet windows and outlet windows directly opposite each other, because the only area that will be cooled will be in the direct path of the airflow.
- Close windows and doors during the hottest part of the day. If your house is well-tightened and insulated, your inside rooms should stay relatively cool during mid- to late-afternoon hours.
- Open windows on cool, low-humidity nights to flush out internal and solar heat that builds up during the day. Leave windows closed when the humidity is high, or your air conditioner will have to work extra-hard to remove the moisture from the air when you turn it on.
- Keep air moving inside your home to increase evaporative cooling from your skin. You’ll stay comfortable at a higher indoor temperature. Running a ceiling fan is very effective for this; set the fan on medium to high speed and the rotation to counterclockwise so it blows the air downward. Also remember that the electric motor in the fan actually heats the room air, so turn it off when the room is unoccupied.
Play it smart in the kitchen and bath
- Use your most energy-efficient appliances for cooking. Instead of using your stove or oven, for example, choose your microwave oven or a countertop appliance such as a toaster oven, slow cooker, steamer or pressure cooker.
- Cook with cold water. Heating the water on your stove or cooktop consumes less energy than using hot water from your water heater – especially if doing so causes your water heater to cycle.
- Choose pots and pans that fit the size of cooktop burners. A 6-inch pot on an 8-inch burner loses about 40 percent of the burner’s heat to the surrounding air. Conversely, oversized pots and pans won’t heat efficiently, extending cooking times.
- Put a lid on it! Lids help your pots and pans retain heat and humidity, allowing foods to cook faster and more efficiently. Your kitchen will stay cooler too.
- Limit oven preheating. Many recipes don’t really require a preheated oven, but if they do – and your oven doesn’t automatically handle the preheating function – restrict preheating time to a maximum of 10 minutes.
- Run your dishwasher late at night. Start the dishwasher when you go to bed. If it has a timer, set the dishwasher to run during nonpeak hours in the middle of the night.
- Let the dishes air-dry. If there’s no air-dry button, stop the cycle after the final rinse and prop open the door. (Watch for escaping steam when you first open the door!)
- Check the temperatures in the refrigerator and freezer. The temperatures should run 38°-40° F. in the refrigerator and 0°-5° F. in the freezer. Setting colder temperature levels wastes energy and makes these heat-producing appliances run too often.
- Allow cooked foods to cool before putting them in the refrigerator. Adding hot foods to the refrigerator will make the compressor run overtime to compensate for the higher temperatures. Use shallow containers so the foods will cool more quickly.
- Prevent heat and dust buildup that will cause your refrigerator to run more often. Leave about 3 inches of open space on both sides and the top of its cabinet. And don’t use those spaces to store items such as step stools, flattened cardboard or TV trays.
- Use the exhaust fans. Vent steam and heat from cooking or showering to the outdoors. However, don’t run an exhaust fan longer than necessary; in one hour, an exhaust fan can blow a house full of cooled air outside.
- Take shorter baths and showers. They add a lot of humidity to your home and can increase the time your air conditioner runs.
Adjust settings in the laundry
- Use cold water for washing clothes. If you need to wash a warm- or hot-water load, run it during the late-evening or early-morning hours.
- Only wash full loads. If you don’t have enough clothes for a full load, set the washer’s water level to match the load’s size.
- Select an extended spin cycle. This option will force the greatest amount of water from clothes, reducing drying time. (Note: This setting may not be appropriate for delicate and specialty fabrics.)
- Check the dryer’s lint trap before every load. Also frequently look at the ducting and exterior vent to make sure they’re clear. Excessive lint buildup can make your dryer run longer.
- Choose dryer settings that use the moisture sensor near the drum to shut off the appliance as soon as clothes are dry. Gently clean the moisture sensor regularly with a little rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab or rag to remove the buildup from chemicals in fabrics and fabric softeners.
- Fluff bulky items as you load them. Towels, sheets, jeans and other heavy clothing will dry faster if you separate and shake them before tossing them in the dryer.
- Dry clothes on an outdoor clothesline. Wet clothes on an indoor clothesline will add humidity to your home and increase the load on your air-conditioning system.