The Cool 9: Ways to Cut Summer Cooling Costs

Electric Meter CompresserI am currently reviewing our June electric bill. It’s a grand total of $106.38. Not too bad for the first month of summer. We only consumed 845 kilowatt hours from June 3rd to July 5th. Granted we were away for several days and, so far, it’s been a fairly mild summer. However, we did run the air conditioner on a number of hot days. I’d like to think that we are doing some things right.

Here are nine ideas for lowering your summer electricity bills while comfortably keeping your cool. I am doing my best to offer unique and effective ideas rather than merely repeating the usual litany of ways to cut air conditioning costs that the media dishes out this time of year.

  • Pull in cool, evening air – if the overnight temperature drops to the low 70s or 60s, turn off the AC and open up the house before going to bed. Draw in the cool night air with window fans or a whole-house fan. In the morning, shut up the house once the outside temperature rises above the interior temperature. Chances are, you can postpone turning on the air conditioner until late morning or early afternoon or, perhaps, leave it off for an entire day. One other factor: humidity. This strategy works well when the humidity is reasonable. However, on nights when it’s so humid that you can cut the air with a knife, you probably want to keep the house closed up and continue running the air conditioner.
  • Use fans in conjunction with, or instead of, air conditioning. But only when rooms that are occupied – generate a breeze with a ceiling fan or floor fan. This will lower the perceived temperature and provide greater comfort with the thermostat at a higher setting. But turn that fan off when you leave the room! A running fan in an empty room is not doing anything for anybody. Instead, it’s needlessly consuming energy and generating heat that increases the air conditioner’s load.
  • Utilize a programmable thermostat according to the EPA, programmable thermostats can cut heating and cooling costs by 20%. If the house is empty during the day, a programmable thermostat can automatically set the temperature higher during the day but lower it prior to your return home in the evening. Get a smart, network connected thermostat (such as a Nest) and you can monitor and control house conditions remotely. But note: a smart thermostat does not necessarily save you any more money than a less expensive, conventional programmable model.
  • Minimize use of stove or range – consider using a microwave, slow cooker or outdoor grill instead. Avoid using the self-cleaning feature on your oven when the AC is on. Here are some summer recipe ideas from Kalyn’s Kitchen:

http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2013/06/20-salads-from-rotisserie-chicken.html

http://www.slowcookerfromscratch.com/2015/06/bloggers-best-slow-cooker-side-dishes-for-summer.html

I am assuming that, as a reader of Frugal, Wealthy and Wise, you are preparing most of your meals at home rather than eating out.

  • Minimize use of lights, install LED bulbs – light bulbs not only consume electricity but also generate heat that the air conditioner must remove. This can double the actual costs to operate a light bulb. Keep lights off as much as possible. And by all means, replace frequently used lights with cooler running LED bulbs (see my 2 previous postings on LED bulbs)
  • Draw shades – shades will keep the house cooler by minimizing the effects of solar heating.
  • Have adequate attic insulation and ventilation – assure that your attic has the proper amount of insulation for your region. Also assure that your attic is well ventilated: either by a network of passive vents or a thermostat-controlled exhaust fan. Note: a well ventilated attic may also extend the life of asphalt roof shingles. See links below.

https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_insulation_table

https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=diy.diy_attic_ventilation

  • Keep the outside compressor/condenser unit clear from vegetation and debris for efficient operation, make sure the condenser cooling coils and fins are not obstructed. Our unit sits in a bed of pachysandra which loves to grow into the AC.
  • Check with your local utility for cost saving programs – we’re enrolled in a program with PECO where: they are allowed to turn off our AC compressor 15 minutes out of an hour during peak summer usage. In return, we get $10 off our electric bill from June – September. This usually happens only a few days each summer. We are alerted of an ‘event’ by email. I have never noticed a significant change in temperature during an ‘event’. Unfortunately, PECO is not enrolling new customers, but perhaps your local utility offers a similar program. Also ask your local utility about: discounts on LED bulbs and rebates for high efficiency appliances, heaters, air conditioners and electric autos.

What ideas do you have for cutting summer cooling costs? Please share them with the group by posting a reply comment below, tweet to @FrugalWealthYz or email.

Cheers, Paul

© 2016 Paul J. Reimold

 

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