Ask Eco Ed: Beating the Summer Heat and Keeping utility Costs Down!

Dear Eco-Ed:

Oh My God , can it get any hotter?  Please help!!!  Is there any way to beat this heat, without breaking the bank?   My air conditioner is running constantly, and my family is still uncomfortable.   Our PSE&G bill is through the roof.  What is a family to do?

– Sweating in Ridgewood

Dear Sweating:

This heat certainly has been oppressive.  Not to worry, though, as there are many things you can do to beat the heat and control your costs.

–        Start your day earlier, when it is cooler.  Errands and outdoor activities are much more bearable before it gets scorching out.

–        Use a programmable thermostat.  If you have a formal schedule, lower your air conditioning (and heat in winter) in the hours while you are away.  Set them to bring it back to comfortable levels by the time you come home.  If your thermostat is manual, then raise it when you leave.  Keep in mind that heat pumps work more efficiently at steady temperatures.  **NOTE – WHEN REPLACING OLDER MERCURY (TYPICALLY CIRCULAR) THERMOSTATS, DISPOSE OF THEM AT HAZARDOUS WASTE PICK UP SITES, AS THEY CONTAIN HIGH AMOUNTS OF MERCURY, ALTOUGH IS SEALED INSIDE A GLASS BULB.

–        Follow the sun – draw blinds or curtains to minimize direct sunshine.  This heats up floors and furniture very quickly.  Eastern (early morning sun) windows should be drawn early, and western exposures later in the day.  For a more long term solution, plant shade trees and shrubs in proper areas to provide this benefit for you.

–        Keep lights and other electric appliances off, and switch to compact fluorescent and LED bulbs.  Have you ever touched a light bulb? 90% of its energy creates heat.  This heat is being dissipated into your living space constantly.  All those bulbs add up in a hurry, and increase the burden on your cooling system.

–        Use solar lights in your yard to minimize electricity used at night.  The selection is becoming greater and quality is improving constantly.  Start small and add lighting features as desired.

–        Be sure that your cooling equipment is properly maintained, refrigerant levels are good, filters are changed, etc.  An efficient system keeps you cooler, at a lower cost.

–        Get an energy audit.  This will identify where heat is getting in, cold air is escaping, the condition of your heating/air conditioning systems, along with many of the other items.  Proper insulation and air sealing works well in summer also.  It keeps the cold out in winter, and the heat out in the summer.

–        Take a nice cold shower.  It’s refreshing and lowers your body temperature, without using much hot water.

–        Do your laundry in cold water.  Newer, front loading machines with proper detergents get the same results with cold water.  Always do full loads of laundry to keep water and energy use down.  Same goes for dishwashers.

–        Dishwashers, dryers, and other heat producing appliances could be used at night, when it is cooler.

And my most favorite solution is to get to water!  Go swimming, play in a pool or even just a touch of cool water on your wrists and neck goes a long way towards keeping your body temperature down.

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