Summer is the time of year when electricity costs skyrocket for the average American. The main driver of that increase is the air conditioning we rely on to keep us cool and comfortable. Let’s explore recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other organizations to help minimize those expenses.

Schedule a Spring HVAC Tune-Up

Early spring is a perfect time to have an HVAC technician inspect and clean your equipment. A cooling tune-up is worth every penny. The EPA estimates it will lower your summer cooling bills by 5% to 15%. That’s enough to cover the service cost and then some.

This is also the right time to schedule duct cleaning if you haven’t done so recently. The technician will inspect your ducts and let you know if you need any repairs. Replacing worn duct insulation and fixing leaking seals can eliminate energy loss as high as 30%, according to the EPA.

Block the Sunlight

The EPA also cautions that many homes lose significant cooling due to light and heat coming through the windows. You can eliminate much of this loss just by choosing the right window coverings. In the summer, studies show that medium-colored drapes with white plastic backing can reduce loss by 33%. Additional steps include installing blackout shades and applying heat-reflective window film.

Set Your Thermostat to the Highest Comfortable Setting

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) advises 78°F as the best balance between comfort and energy efficiency. That may seem too high to many, and it did cause a bit of an uproar when they first made the recommendation. The important thing is that you find the best balance for you. Each degree you turn the thermostat up will reduce your cooling bill by about 1%.

Upgrade to a Programmable or Smart Thermostat

If you haven’t yet, you should upgrade to a programmable or smart thermostat. A programmable thermostat is a digital thermostat that lets you set a schedule. A smart thermostat is a programmable thermostat that also has Wi-Fi capabilities. In either case, the EPA notes that this upgrade can reduce your overall cooling costs by at least 8%. There are also thermostat rebates listed on the EPA website that can help offset the initial investment. The big opportunities to save result from having the thermostat increase your temperature setting while you are sleeping or away from home.

Invest in Ceiling Fans and Room Circulators

Fans don’t actually lower the temperature in a room, but they’re helpful in two ways. A fan circulates air in a room, evenly distributing the cool air. It also creates a wind-chill effect that helps you feel cooler. With enough fan coverage, you can increase your temperature setting by several degrees.

You should consider installing ceiling fans in all rooms that your family occupies often, including bedrooms. In rooms where ceiling fans aren’t practical, room circulators are an option. Be mindful there’s no need to run a fan in an unoccupied room. Doing so will just consume energy unnecessarily.

Check HVAC Filters Often, and Replace Them as Needed

All central air systems have one or more supply vents that need an air filter. When running your AC, a filter can clog quickly with dust. As the filter clogs, static air pressure in your ductwork drops. That causes your AC to work harder and for your electricity consumption to go up.

How often you need to replace the filter depends on the size of your home and number of household members, including pets. We recommend checking your filters at least every month and replacing them as soon as you notice substantial accumulation.

Lower Relative Humidity With a Dehumidifier

The EPA recommends indoor relative humidity (RH) between 30% and 50%. The ideal setting for you will be the balance between RH and the thermostat setting you find most comfortable. A lower RH helps you feel comfortable at a higher temperature, providing an opportunity to save energy. Portable units that lower humidity in your immediate space are effective. The best long-term solution for comfort and savings is a whole-house dehumidifier.

Choose ENERGY STAR Products

If you purchase any new appliances, gravitate toward products that have earned the EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification. This includes ceiling fans, lighting, thermostats, air conditioners, smart devices and so forth. ENERGY STAR’s stamp of approval assures you that the product consumes less energy without sacrificing performance. It may also let you take advantage of energy rebates, tax credits and other opportunities.

Upgrade to Smart Outlets, or Unplug Appliances

The term phantom load refers to the electrical draw from appliances that are in standby mode. This affects many appliances in your home, including TVs, microwaves and smartphone chargers. Phantom draw adds up quickly during a season when your electricity bill is already sky high. One option is to unplug appliances when not in use. Another is to use smart outlets or plugs that allow you to remotely control the energy flow.

Use Cool Lighting, and Turn Off Lights When Not in Use

Opt for lights that use less electricity and generate less heat. LEDs are a great choice. They produce less heat than incandescent bulbs, use 75% less energy and last many times longer. Also, shut off lights when not in use. Smart outlets with timer settings are a convenient way to do this.

Avoid and Time Appliance Usage

Avoid running dryers and dishwashers during the day. When possible, grill outdoors, or use an air fryer or toaster oven rather than your main oven. When washing clothes, use cold water. Hot water accounts for 90% of laundry costs. Another potential benefit of running appliances at night is off-peak electricity rates.

Upgrade Your Old Water Heater

Keep your water heater thermostat at the DOE-recommended setting of 120°F. This is a safe, efficient setting that will help avoid energy loss. Even in summer, your water heater can account for 15% or more of your energy usage. If you have an old water heater, this is a great time to replace it. You can reduce your monthly costs by at least 10% and even more if you go tankless.

Schedule a Home Energy Audit

If you haven’t done so recently, spring is a great time to schedule a professional home energy audit. This will provide you with a prioritized list of your home’s energy losses. You can then plan your home improvement budget for things like air sealing, new windows, and weatherstripping.

Opt Into Utility Energy Saving Programs

Contact your utility company and ask about any summer discounts and opt-ins that may be available. Many utilities offer a direct load control program. If you opt in, it gives them some control over your HVAC and other electrical equipment during peak periods. In return, you get a credit on your bill each month.

Your Cooling Experts in Newburgh

If you live in Newburgh, NY or a surrounding area and want to lower your energy costs, Polar Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning is here to help. Our HVAC technicians install, maintain and repair all types of ducted and ductless heating and cooling systems. We have IAQ experts who install whole-home ventilation, air purification, dehumidification and humidification systems. You can count on our plumbers for drain cleaning, water and gas re-piping and leak detection and repair. We also install faucets, toilets and garbage disposals.

Contact us at Polar Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning today to schedule a service appointment or get answers to any questions you may have.

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