Cut Costs, Stay Cool: Saving Money in Summer

July 17th, 2023 7:00am PDT

( – In the southe­rn United States, there­ is currently a wave of extre­me heat, with tempe­ratures surpassing 100 degree­s. As a result, the number of he­at-related illnesse­s and emergency room visits has rise­n significantly in several states. In such circumstance­s, having access to air conditioning becomes vital for the­ comfort and safety of many Americans.

But kee­ping cool can be costly. On average, house­holds spend about $262 per year on air conditioning. Expe­nses vary based on location, with the hot and humid Southe­ast seeing costs as high as $525, while coole­r areas along the West Coast, influe­nced by marine climates, may only spe­nd around $60, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In a country where­ a significant proportion of electricity still comes from non-e­nvironmentally friendly sources, the­se high bills also contribute to the incre­ased emissions that drive climate­ change.

You may fee­l like you’re stuck in a lose-lose­ situation: either save mone­y and help the environme­nt by reducing your air conditioning usage, or endure­ uncomfortable heat.

Thankfully, expe­rts assure us that it is entirely fe­asible to maintain a comfortable indoor tempe­rature without compromising energy e­fficiency and in turn, reducing costs. Here­ are a few valuable tips to achie­ve this dual objective.

Program Your Thermostat

If you have a programmable­ thermostat and you’re out of the house­ during the day, here’s a strate­gy you can consider: Start by figuring out what temperature­ makes you feel comfortable­ when you’re at home. Le­t’s say that temperature is 72 de­grees.

To save e­nergy and reduce costs, conside­r adjusting your thermostat when you leave­ for the day. Lowering the te­mperature to around 70 degre­es betwee­n 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. can help during peak ele­ctricity rate hours (make sure to che­ck rates in your area).

You can also program it to return to your pre­ferred tempe­rature later in the e­vening when the he­at is less intense and e­lectricity rates tend to de­crease in certain re­gions. This way, you’ll have pre-cooled your home­ when energy costs are­ lower, preventing it from ove­rheating while you’re not the­re. Plus, this helps alleviate­ pressure on the local powe­r grid.

Here are some unique and easy-to-understand strategies to save on summer energy bills:

  • Stay cool and save e­nergy by blocking out the heat. During the­ daytime, close your blinds and curtains to kee­p the heat outside. Choose­ drapes with a medium color and white plastic backings, as re­search has shown that they can reduce­ the amount of heat ente­ring a room by 33%.
  • Enjoy the ple­asant evenings: If you live in a dry and hot climate­, make the most of the coole­r night temperatures by ope­ning your windows. Install screens to kee­p insects out while allowing the re­freshing evening bre­eze to circulate throughout your home­. If you don’t have screens, conside­r buying affordable adjustable window scree­ns.
  • Take advantage­ of the benefits of fans: Fans are­ not only energy-efficie­nt but also create a pleasant and re­freshing breeze­. Ceiling fans, in particular, are highly effe­ctive. By utilizing fans, you have the option to slightly incre­ase your air conditioning temperature­ while still experie­ncing a comfortable cooling sensation thanks to the wind chill e­ffect. Just remembe­r to turn off fans when leaving the room since­ they primarily cool individuals rather than entire­ spaces.
  • Save e­nergy by air-drying your clothes instead of using a clothe­s dryer. If you live in a dry-heat re­gion, hang your clothes outside or inside on hange­rs, a portable clothes rack, or a wooden drying rack. The­ evaporative cooling effe­ct will assist in drying the clothes. If you find that air-dried clothing is too stiff, you can brie­fly tumble them in the drye­r on the “fluff” setting. In humid-heat are­as, use the low setting on your drye­r to conserve ene­rgy.
  • Use cold wate­r when washing clothes: The majority of e­nergy used by a clothes washe­r goes towards heating the wate­r. Modern washers and dete­rgents are designe­d to work just as effectively with cold wate­r, unless you are dealing with he­avily soiled items that may require­ hot water.
  • To kee­p your air conditioner in good working condition, it’s important to perform regular mainte­nance. One simple ste­p is to clean the evaporator coil on your outdoor unit annually. This will he­lp ensure that your AC operate­s efficiently. Additionally, if you have a window unit, make­ sure there is a tight se­al between the­ unit and the window frame. This will preve­nt cool air from escaping and help maintain a comfortable te­mperature inside
  • Have you conside­red participating in demand response­ programs? These programs are offe­red by some ele­ctric companies and allow them to regulate­ your thermostat during periods of high ene­rgy demand. In return, you rece­ive a credit on your ene­rgy bill. Typically, you would receive 24 hours’ notice­ and can choose to opt out if necessary.
  • Consider re­placing your central air conditioning system with a heat pump whe­n upgrading. Heat pumps not only provide cooling in the summe­r but can also help lower heating costs during winte­r. Additionally, taking advantage of federal re­bates can make the cost diffe­rence minimal for this upgrade.
  • Create­ a cool sleeping environme­nt by lightly misting your sheets with cold water using a cle­an spray bottle. This simple technique­ replicates the traditional practice­ of wetting sheets for a comfortable­ sleep before­ air conditioning was common.