Is your air conditioner running full blast this summer, pushing your Maryland electric bill into an uncomfortable zone? Americans spend $11 billion on air conditioning costs, according to the Department of Energy. The seven steps you can take to feel comfortable at home while lowering your summer utility bills.
Like humans, machines need breaks too. Programmable thermostats help your air conditioner last longer and save you energy.
You can save as much as 10-percent a year on heating and cooling costs by adjusting your home’s temperature while you’re at work.
The Department of Energy says you’ll see savings on your utility bills if you turn down your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees.
A smart thermostat is an even better option than a programmable thermostat. It watches your behaviors and adjusts the temperature based on your lifestyle.
2. Enhance outdoor landscaping
Landscaping improves the look of your home, adds privacy, and naturally cools your home in the summer.
When you plant trees on the south and west side of your home, you protect your home from the day’s most intense heat. The tree shade saves you 15-50 percent on your air conditioning bill.
Plant trees that shed their leaves, so sunshine can still warm your home in the winter.
Make sure you plant the tree far enough away from the house. While trees are small at first, they grow quickly. Their branches and roots cause damage if the tree is too close to your home’s roof and foundation. You don’t want the tree branches hanging on the roof. They can rip off gutters and cause damage. You want the creeping roots as far away from your foundation as possible.
While trees take time to grow, homeowners get immediate benefits. A 6-8 foot tree that loses its leaves in the winter will immediately shade your windows, according to the Department of Energy. It takes 5 to 10 years to shade your roof.
You see energy savings from vines even quicker. Add them to your porch, or the side of your home. In the winter, trim back the vines, so the house warms more quickly.
Experts recommend Dutchman’s pipe or trumpet creeper. They can grow large enough to shade most of your home in just five years.
Plants also reduce your energy costs. You won’t see instant savings because plants take the time to grow and mature. The Department of Energy estimates a well-planned landscape pays for itself in 8 years.
Air leaks are more common than you think. In a North Carolina Alternative Energy Corporation Study, 90-percent of ductwork leaked air.
You probably have air duct leaks if some rooms are too hot or too cold, fans constantly run, rooms are drafty, the furnace or A/C continuously cycles, the home is dusty, or if the fans are excessively noisy.
Your comfort and health depend on properly sealed ductwork. Duct leaks affect your home’s humidity, which affects your health. Too little moisture causes flaky skin.
By checking for air duct leaks, you’ll lower your summer cooling costs.
4. Get an energy audit
Energy audits help homeowners pinpoint the reason for high utility bills. There are many culprits including your ductwork and insulation. Through a series of tests, an energy auditor can find the problems and create a plan to fix them.
Maryland BGE and Pepco customers qualify for special savings. As a result, Minnick’s Healthy Home Energy Audit is only $100. Plus, utility customers earn up to $7500 in rebates for qualifying home improvements.
Minnick’s Energy Audit takes a Whole-Home approach to the energy audit. While an efficient HVAC system is critical, it won’t perform like it should if there are problems in other areas of your home. With this in mind, we look at how your entire home works together. This includes all the systems like your insulation and ductwork.
With more than 60 years of experience, Minnick’s often finds all the systems in a home don’t work together.
Whole-home comfort is simple science. An air leak or incorrect ductwork cause your HVAC unit to work harder. Each system depends on the other to perform efficiently. That’s why Minnick’s Energy Audit looks at how the systems perform together, rather than on their own.
5. Ventilate your home
Ventilation is the cheapest yet most energy-efficient way to cool your home, according to the Department of Energy.
Open your windows on cool nights.
Second, add ceiling fans. They’re the most useful type of fan. They’re so effective, the Department of Energy says you can raise the thermostat 4-degrees, and you’ll still feel just as comfortable.
They keep the air moving in a room, so you feel more comfortable.
You can also invest in a whole house fan. These make a difference even on the hottest day of the year. Whole house fans pull air through a window and then ventilate it through the attic or roof.
6. Cook outside
When the temperature soars, the last thing you want to do is go outside unless you’re jumping in a pool. However, an outdoor grill is the best choice when it’s warm. You don’t want to add excess heat to your home when your air conditioner is already working hard to keep your house cool.
7. Look at your window coverings
Finally, lower your summer cooling costs with window awnings. The Department of Energy says they reduce heat gain by up to 77-percent for windows that face west.