There is no way around it: summer in the Greater Houston area of Texas is synonymous with hot. Air conditioning is a standard part of life for more than half the year, so when you are able to save a few bucks on your utilities while keeping comfortable in your home, it’s worth pursuing the opportunity. There are many ways to go about this, some simple DIY projects as well as some reasonably priced professional services. Spend a little now and save on your utility bills for the rest of the year with improved energy efficiency.
1. Seal Air Leaks
You would be surprised at how easily air leaks can occur, particularly in homes that have stood several years. Over time as your house withstands temperature changes and strong storms, adjoining sections of your home can slightly separate. Gaps around your windows and doors can open just enough to let cool air escape during the summer, forcing your A/C to work harder than it should need to keep your home comfortable. Sealing these leaks with caulk and weather-stripping will improve your home’s energy efficiency, and it’s an easy, low-cost DIY project.
2. Check Your Home’s Insulation
If your house has an attic, basement, or crawl space, check the condition of your insulation. You may find some cracks and gaps have opened up. Worse yet, you might be surprised to find a lack of insulation in your crawl space! The fact is, like sealing air leaks, insulation keeps cool air indoors during the summer months and is a major player in home energy efficiency.
Depending on the scale of the necessary work, insulating a space can be a simple DIY project like using a can of spray foam to fill gaps, or it may be a professional job, such as applying large sheets of fiberglass foam to the walls and ceiling of an entire attic. If you’re not sure, it’s always best to consult with an expert. Also, if you have a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed in the summertime as that’s another escape route for your cool air.
3. Install a Smart Thermostat
Some of the latest thermostats on the market now include WiFi connections allowing you to control them remotely should the need arise. You can program them to raise the room temperature while no one is home so you aren’t consuming excess electricity cooling an empty house. Then, as everyone is returning home for the day, program the thermostat to automatically cool your home just in time.
Thanks to the WiFi connection, some smart thermostats are web-enabled and can receive weather updates. This means if a major change in weather is coming, the thermostat can make automatic adjustments to your HVAC system without you needing to do it yourself. Therefore, you won’t be cooling the house on a suddenly or unusually cold summer day.
4. HVAC System Tune-Up Plan
Keeping your HVAC at top performance is a sure way to keep up your home’s energy efficiency. A maintenance plan enables you to rely on a professional’s trained eye to inspect and clean your system, clear drainage within the unit, check for leakage, oil mechanical parts, and check the integrity of all parts and their functions.
This will decrease chances of your system malfunctioning or poor performance, while prolonging its longevity. A poorly performing HVAC will suck up much more energy than it should need to cool your house. Keep this in mind if you notice an unexpected rise in your electric bill.
5. Install and Use Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are an excellent method for cooling down in the warm weather without using too much energy. One ceiling fan uses about the same amount of electricity as a lightbulb. The breeze they generate makes it feel a few degrees cooler, enough so that you can raise your room’s thermostat a few degrees to compensate, meaning less work for your A/C. Ceiling fans in multiple rooms circulate the cool air your A/C puts out, thereby alleviating much of the A/C’s workload. What’s more, they are useful throughout the year, even in the cooler weather to circulate the heat.
6. Clean Vents and Replace Filters
As a general rule, you should replace your HVAC filters monthly. If you go longer, you will notice dust and lint accumulating on your air return, indicating a potentially clogged filter forcing your A/C to work harder. Similarly, if your vents accumulate a lot of dust and debris, your vents can clog creating a similar problem. Vacuum your vents and return regularly and keep them clear of any obstacles. Clean airways allow your A/C to run smoothly while keeping your indoor air cleaner.
7. Sun and Shade
This might seem obvious to some, but how often do you think about the effect direct sunlight has on your home’s indoor climate and energy consumption? Closing window shades or blinds in the daytime will prevent direct sunlight from warming your home’s interior, which is otherwise canceling out the hard work your A/C is producing.
There are more permanent solutions you can consider, such as applying solar-control films to your window panes, which are known to reduce the amount of sunlight entering the room. Alternatively, you can plant trees and shrubs outside your windows where the direct sun is most bothersome or install exterior awnings as year-round solutions.
8. Manage Your Home’s Lighting
A simple place to begin is by remembering to turn out the lights when no one is in a room. In the daytime when it’s possible, rely on natural lighting from the outdoors to illuminate the room. New lighting technologies will aid you in your energy efficiency quest, such as replacing older standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Newer standard designs are now on the market that use less wattage to produce the same brightness as the older styles, such as a 53W bulb replacing a 75W.
9. Purchase Energy Star Rated Products
If you are in the market to buy any new appliances or electronics for your kitchen, laundry, or living room, look at Energy Star ratings as part of your decision-making. High Energy Star ratings are given to products that achieve high performance while using the lowest possible energy required. They are rated for minimal creation of greenhouse gases and meeting the demands of consumers using broadly available technologies and energy resources. By replacing your older appliances with Energy Star certified models, you stand to save on your home’s utility bills.
10. Use Appliances Efficiently
This may sound like tedious repetition, but every little bit adds up when saving energy. Only run your washer with a full load of laundry. When it comes to drying your laundry, take advantage of the hot summer sun and hang your clothing outside, leaving the dryer off altogether. You can apply a similar logic to using your dishwasher – run it only when you have full loads and turn off the heat dry setting. Check your refrigerator – if some food items seem too cold, possibly freezing in the back, turn up the temperature a couple of degrees.
When your computers and mobile devices are fully charged and not in use, unplugging them will help eliminate wasted electricity consumption. Putting them to sleep is not saving energy. Same with turning off the TV and stereo when no one is actually using them. This may all seem minimal, but over the course of the summer, it will make a difference in your utility bill.
11. Reduce Hot Water Usage
Start by turning down your hot water heater’s thermostat a few degrees. Chances are you’ll barely feel the difference in the shower, and it will cut down on your energy bill. If your water heater is aging, you may want to consider replacing it with a new, more efficient model. Consider taking shorter showers to avoid using too much hot water. Likewise, don’t waste hot water on hand washing dishes that can go directly in the much more efficient dishwasher.
If you are looking for more energy-efficient ways to save on cooling your home this summer, contact the pros at Davis Air Conditioning & Heating today at (888) 710-5530 in Greater Houston or (888) 929-0049 in Brazoria County.
Image provided by Shutterstock