Beat the Summer Heat and Keep Utility Costs Down!

Dear Eco-Ed:

My central air has been straining to keep our home bearable over the past few weeks.  We just got our PSE&G bill, which is ridiculous.  Is there anything we can do that will address both of these issues?

- Too Hot to Handle in Ridgewood


Dear Too Hot to Handle:

Beat the Summer Heat

Is your central air draining your wallet? Feel hopeless? Eco Ed addresses how to reduce the summer energy bill

We have had 4 official “heat waves” this summer so far.  And is doesn’t look like it will be getting cooler any time soon.  First of all, be glad that we are starting to get some rain.  Adding drought conditions and high water costs to the mix doesn’t make things any easier.  There are many areas to target to beat the heat and control your costs.

-        Be sure that your cooling equipment is properly maintained, refrigerant levels are good, filters are changed, etc.  Older and less efficient systems can also be using a lot of energy without delivering cool air properly.  An efficient system keeps you cooler, at a lower cost.

-        Improve insulation levels in your home, to keep the heat out.  Before you do this though, see the next tip:

-        Get a home energy audit.  This will identify where heat is getting in, cold air is escaping, assess the condition of your air conditioning/heating systems, along with many of the other items.  Proper insulation and air sealing is important in summer months as well as winter also.  It keeps the heat out in the summer, along with the cold in winter.  The good news here is that the State has a program called Home Performance with Energy Star, which will offset some of the costs of energy improvements for homeowners.  Currently, rebates are up to $5,000 per house, plus interest-free loans of up to another $10,000 for qualified homeowners!

-        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 if you have a heat pump, they work more efficiently at relatively steady temperatures.  Why pay to keep you home cool all day if no one is home?

**NOTE – WHEN REPLACING OLDER MERCURY (TYPICALLY CIRCULAR) THERMOSTATS, DISPOSE OF THEM AT HAZARDOUS WASTE PICK UP SITES BY BERGEN COUNTY UTILITY AUTHORITY, AS THEY CONTAIN HIGH AMOUNTS OF MERCURY WHICH 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.  They use 75% less energy, but have another benefit.  Have you ever touched a light bulb? 90% of its energy is used to create 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.

-        Take a nice cold shower.  It’s refreshing and lowers your body temperature, without using much hot water.  By doing this, you can keep your home a couple of degrees warmer and still remain comfortable.

-        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.

-        Dishwashers, dryers, and other heat producing appliances could be used at night, when it is cooler.  Just as with your laundry, wash dishes only when you have a full load.

In addition to all of the above, see if your home is a good solar energy candidate.  If so, this can offset some of your electric costs.  Aside from being good for the environment, solar panels can be a good investment and improve the value of your home.

Ask Eco Ed your own question <<>> Read the Ask Eco Ed Column

Eco Ed is featured on CNBC. [Does investing in Home Energy Efficiency make good financial sense?]

CNBC: Eco-Friendly Home Savings

Click Image to watch CNBC interview Eco Ed on how he invested $100,000 into his home with a five-year return. He now lives in a gorgeous, historic home that has an energy bill that earns him money. Learn how you could do the same.

CNBC uses Eco Ed’s home to explain the financial benefits of investing in a “green” home.  After installing solar panels, insulation, and other energy efficient technology, his house was 80-90% more efficient and put cash in his pocket!