how to save on summer utilities

How to cut summer energy bills without melting

We may often forget that much of the planet lives without the benefit of air conditioning for relief from summer heat.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have A/C, however, keeping utility bills down to a manageable amount can become an important concern. Here are a few ways to make the most of every energy dollar spent.

(Note: A big chunk of your utility bill may be due to energy wastage. It is often possible to reduce energy consumption without dramatically decreasing your comfort level.)

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What are the biggest energy users in a home?

According to the US Department of Energy, the biggest consumers of energy in the typical American home are:

  • 56% - Heating and air conditioning
  • 20% - Home electronics and appliances
  • 14-25% - Hot water heater

25 Tips for cutting home energy consumption:

Cutting air conditioning consumption:
  1. If your home has ceiling fans use those before turning on the AC. They use a lot less energy and the circulation of the air can often change the temperature of a room very quickly. Ceiling fans should be set to run counter-clockwise in summer so that they are blowing the breeze toward you. (In winter, the rotation should be reversed in order to push up the air so that forces warm, trapped, ceiling air down the sides of the room.)
  2. If you find you still want to use the AC, set the thermostat to an "acceptable", but not necessarily "perfect" temperature -- try around 78 degrees in the day. And if you will gone for a few days, an 85 degrees setting can save you even more.
  3. Before you turn on the AC, be sure to seal any holes to the outside (including fireplace dampers) that may allow cool air escape.
  4. Have your AC unit serviced before you start to use it and change the dust filters in your vent system
  5. Although the sun provides a great source of light, on bright days close the blinds so the heat from the sun doesn't pour into the house.
  6. Cool the rooms you use most frequently and, to reduce expense, close off rooms you are not using.
  7. Do a check through the house to make sure no furniture, toys, drapes, or other things are blocking the air vents.
  8. Avoid using the stove and oven on hot days as the heat will remain in the house causing your AC to work harder.
  9. Consider adding extra insulation to your attic floor, walls, basement or crawl space. Only 1 in 5 homes built before 1980 are adequately insulated. Not sure how much insulation is appropriate for your location? Visit the Recommended Home Insulation R– Values at
Reducing home electronics and appliances energy consumption:
  1. Unplug any appliances when they are not in use as they can still use energy without even being turned on.
  2. Vacuum built-up dust and grim from refrigerator coils and make sure the seals are in-tact.
  3. Sell or properly dispose of any seldom used refrigerator or freezer you may have running. And when buying a freezer or refrigerator, don't buy one that it bigger than you will need.
  4. Use the air dry setting on your dishwasher so that no heat is created that can warm up the kitchen. Or better yet, let you dishes air dry on warm days.
  5. Keep your laundry dryer filter clean. Better yet, hang your washed clothes outside to air dry. This will both reduce the electric consumption needed to dry the clothes and reduce the amount of AC air that's being pulled into the dryer machine and sent out the dryer vent.
  6. Turn off the Heat Dry setting on your automatic dish washer and allow the clean dishes to air dry.
  7. Use your major appliances at off peak hours when few people are using electric. In many places, the electricity billing rate depends on the time of day the energy is used.
  8. Convert your lighting from standard incandescent bulbs to the new, corkscrew type that are much more energy efficient.
  9. Use a timer for garage, outdoor, basement and other lights that are easy to forget to turn off.
Reducing hot water heater energy consumption:
  1. Take cooler showers to reduce your body temperature so that you can skip the AC altogether. And a short shower consumes less energy than it takes to fill a bath tub.
  2. Fix leaky sinks, tubs and toilets.
  3. Set your hot water heater to no higher than 120 degrees.

Working on the outside of your house can significantly cut your cooling bills, as well:

  1. Plant trees and shrubs to absorb the sun keep the heat from beating down on your home.
  2. Paint the exterior of your home in a light and bright color to reduce the amount of heat absorbed from the sun.
  3. When it's time to reshingle your house, go with a light color which reflects rather than absorbs the sun's heat rays.
  4. Make sure your attic is ventilated. Hot air rises, so it needs an escape route for the cold air to circulate.

If you really want to "go green", consider installing solar panels. When you create excess energy some electric companies are forced by law to buy it. This changes the equation so that, instead of you paying the utilities, the utilities pay you. If you have energy-saving tips you, like to share, we'd love to hear them. Please add your comments below. And for more energy and money saving ideas visit these web sites: Tips on Saving Money & Energy at Home

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Showing comment(s)
July 08, 2012
Nice list of suggestions. I followed your link above to the The US Dept. of Energy's website and found their steps for how to do an own at-home energy assessment especially interesting
July 11, 2012
Since it's been horribly hot this summer, we were going to add pulldown blinds between our living room windows and our existing shades but my husband read somewhere that shades on the inside of windows aren't nearly as effective as shades on the outside of the windows. It makes sense, I suppose, to keep the sun ray's from even entering the home. We found some gorgeous Coolaroo exterior pulldown sunshades at Lowes that have made a big difference and were about half the price of very similar products at Home Depot. We are very happy with what we bought but stumbled across this novel way of keeping the heat on the outside, that I wanted to share:

It looks like they just replace their normal window screens with a sunblocking mesh fabric similar to what's used in our Coolaroo shade.
July 014, 2012
I disagree somewhat with your suggestion to not buy too large of a fridge. By having a fridge that's plenty big, it is easier to find stuff so the door is left open for less time. And, unlike a freezer that does best when it is packed, a refrigerator needs enough space between items for air to circulate in order to cool properly. So I sure wouldn't cut myself short and buy a refrigerator that's any too small.
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