Memorial Day is right around the corner, and the hot days of summer probably aren’t far behind. Extreme temperatures can lead to high energy usage and higher-than-average electric bills for Walton EMC members.
Don’t worry though, there are plenty of simple steps your household can take to keep the temperature — and your budget — within the comfort zone, advises Walton EMC’s Rigs Santos.
Simple, inexpensive actions can result in significant energy savings.
“Even simple, inexpensive actions can result in significant energy savings,” he said.
Santos and Jeff Paul, both residential energy advisors for the co-op, compiled a list of easy, cost-effective strategies you can put into practice to save electricity, save money and stay comfortable.
1. Tap the app
Understanding how much power you’re using, and when you’re using it, is the first step to better managing your summertime consumption. Use the free myWaltonEMC app to track and manage your energy use from any mobile device. You can check your home’s energy use by the hour and day, and also see how weather affects your energy bill. Download the mobile app from the App Store or from Google Play. You can also link to the service at waltonemc.com.
2. Schedule an HVAC tune-up
Proper upkeep can keep your HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system, running efficiently. In fact, servicing your system every spring and fall can save as much as 10 percent on your electric bill. Besides lowering energy use, regular system maintenance can extend the life of your equipment. Make an appointment now to have your system inspected by an HVAC professional who can spot air duct leaks, intake blockages, mechanical failings, electronic failings and more.
3. Don’t forget the filter
A dirty air filter slows airflow and makes your HVAC equipment work harder, possibly even leading to early system failure. Set a calendar reminder to replace your filter at least every three months. Some filters can be cleaned rather than replaced, so be sure to check the instructions for your specific unit. Hire a contractor to annually check, maintain and possibly upgrade your HVAC equipment to improve efficiency and comfort year-round.
4. Optimize thermostat settings
Keep the thermostat at 72 degrees while you’re home and 78 degrees when you’re away. Consider installing a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust the temperature settings. Experts say a programmable thermostat can save as much as 10 percent on cooling bills. A smart programmable thermostat will even learn your habits, such as the hours when you’re away at work, and program itself to the most energy-efficient setting for that period. Learn more about smart thermostats at EnergyStar.gov.
5. Get serious about sealing
Insulation isn’t just for the cold winter months. Preventing air leaks (don’t forget to check the basement and attic) is one of the best ways to keep warm air out and cool air in. Simple caulking and weatherstripping can save up to 30 percent on heating and cooling costs. For how-to advice, check out Walton EMC’s Caulk Talk.
6. Enjoy efficient entertainment
If binge watching is among your summertime plans, avoid using gaming consoles to stream movies and TV shows. Watching videos on these consoles can draw 10 to 25 times more electricity than using devices like the Apple TV, Roku box or Amazon Fire Stick.
7. Change your bulbs
One of the simplest ways to trim a household electric bill is trading older, inefficient incandescent bulbs for LEDs. LEDs last up to 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use about a sixth as much electricity. An important note for summer: 90 percent of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is given off as heat rather than light, which can contribute to your home’s temperature.
8. Fan yourself
A ceiling fan can make a room feel 10 degrees cooler and uses only 10 percent of the energy as compared to a traditional air conditioner. Set the fan to spin in a counterclockwise direction so it pulls up cooler air from the ground to blow it back down. Turn the fan off when you leave the room since it cools people, rather than the room, by creating a wind chill effect.
9. Avoid the oven
Cooking with a conventional oven can raise the indoor temperature by 10 degrees, forcing your air conditioner to work harder. Keep the kitchen cooler by planning meals that can be cooked with a microwave or slow cooker. Better yet, consider cooking outside on the grill.
10. Close the curtains
In cooling seasons, about 76 percent of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters the home to become heat, the U.S. Department of Energy reports. Closing curtains or blinds on southern- and western-facing windows can help reduce daytime heat gain inside your home by 45 percent. Learn about energy-efficient window coverings.
If the peaks of summer electric bills are tough on your budget, sign up for Walton EMC’s Levelized Billing.
Opt for levelized billing
If the peaks of summer electric bills are tough on your budget, sign up for Walton EMC’s Levelized Billing option. It allows residential customers to pay nearly the same amount on their Walton EMC bill each month, removing the month-to-month fluctuations caused by changing weather, changing energy use and other factors.
Now that you have a variety of energy-saving ideas, challenge yourself to see if you can lower your energy costs this summer. Then use those savings for a weekend getaway to a Georgia state park this fall.