Beating the heat can be difficult, especially in the Alabama. But it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are my top 7 ways to stay cool while lowering your energy costs this summer.
1. Check you attic insulation
Insulation helps regulate energy in your house. It maintains indoor temperatures by slowing conductive heat flow. In other words, your insulation makes sure your roof and walls aren’t bringing too much outside heat into the rest of your home.
Good insulation is particularly important for homes in the southeastern United States, where summer temperatures can rise as high as 100 degrees. Though it’s much more efficient to hire a professional to check and install new insulation, it is possible to do it yourself.
For a complete guide on keeping your home well-insulated, check out this step-by-step walkthrough by the US Department of Energy. It teaches you everything you need to know about home insulation, from regional R-values to materials to installation guides.
2. Insulate your attic door
Most new homes have little (or no) insulation in their attic doors. This is a problem, as insulation gaps can cancel out all the work you put into regulating your home’s indoor temperature. Think of it like this: most attic doors are 2 to 3-feet wide, covered by a ½-inch thick piece of plywood. That’s a huge hole.
If your attic door is missing insulation, then consider asking a professional to help you fix it. Insulating your attic door can save you thousands in energy bills.
3. Install ceiling fans
Though it might seem expensive, installing ceiling fans in your home can save you a lot on energy costs this summer. And if you already have ceiling fans, use them: The average fan running at high speed uses about 75 watts of energy, while air conditioners use about 2,000 watts.
If you run your ceiling fan for three hours each day, it will cost you $.68 per month. On the flipside, running your AC for three hours per day costs $18.25 per month. That’s a huge difference.
Ceiling fans are guaranteed to lower your power bill. Don’t believe the math? Check it yourself.
4. Replace your air filters
Cooling your home with a clogged air filter is like running with a towel over your face: it’s nearly impossible. If your HVAC filters are clogged, then you’re likely spending way too much on your energy bill. Checking your filter at least once per month can drastically improve your air quality and lower your energy costs.
Most department stores carry a range of air filters. Before you buy a new one, note the dimensions and type of your current filter. I recommend taking a picture of it before running to the store; that way, you don’t have to carry a dirty air filter around Walmart. If you are still unsure which filter to buy, contact your local HVAC technician.
Need help installing your new filter? Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:
- Turn off your AC to avoid damaging the unit or hurting yourself.
- Pull the existing filter from the slot.
- Replace the air filter with a new one.
- Turn your AC back on.
- Vacuum up any residual dust.
After you finish installing your filter, remember to note the date and set a reminder for yourself. That way, you can keeps your home smelling fresh.
5. Automate your thermostat
It might seem like a lot of money up front, but investing in a smart thermostat like Nest can save you a lot of money in the long run. Energy regulating thermostats turn themselves down while you’re away, saving you money on wasted AC.
If you aren’t feeling high-tech, then remember to turn your thermostat off while you’re at work. I like to leave myself sticky notes near the front door, as reminders.
6. Check ductwork for leaks
Fixing leaky AC ducts can improve your energy efficiency by up to 20%; it also improves overall air quality and can save you money on energy bills (Energy Star).
Besides, checking your ducts for leaks is pretty cheap. All you need is an incense stick. Here’s how:
- Seal off all air registers or returns. Blocking airflow pressurizes your duct, making leaks much easier to detect.
- Run a lit incense stick along the edges of the duct. If a draft moves the smoke, then you have a leak.
If you have a leak, consider fixing your duct or installing a new one immediately. If you’re in a DIY mood, here’s a link to the Department of Energy’s home caulking guide.
7. Seal leaky windows
While you’re checking your ducts, be sure to check your windows for leaks, too. While visual checks are effective, a simple smoke test is the most effective way to pinpoint problems.
Here’s the best way to check your windows for leaks:
- Close all your windows.
- Turn off all fans and air control units.
- Light an incense stick.
- Move the incense along the window.
If a draft catches your smoke, you likely have a leak. If you do, follow the steps outlined in the home caulking guide above. Remember, making your home weathertight is one of easiest and most effective ways to save money this summer. Though repairs can be costly, fixing your problems now will help you avoid major headaches in the future.
What do you think of this list? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your summer energy tips and tricks. Leave me a comment, and I might feature your idea in my next post.
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