Top 8 tips to lower your energy costs and stay cool all summer long!

May 24th, 2022

Top 8 tips to lower your energy costs and stay cool all summer long!

During Texas summers, most people are relaxing inside and enjoying the cool AC, and they may potentially be using more energy than needed to cool their home. You don’t have to replace your AC system or install solar panels to be more energy efficient or comfortable in your home! Here are the top 8 tips for ways to reduce your energy usage and lower your electric bill, while staying cool this summer.

One - Keep cold air inside and hot air out!

Your windows and doors may look innocent, but they are often the culprit of higher energy usage. Make sure to seal up any cracks, gaps, and holes around your home by using a sealant, like caulk, on any small cracks or gaps around the house, and purchase weather stripping for windows and bottoms of your doors. The best places to put your weather stripping is on exterior doors, windows, attic hatchways, garage doors, and on doors to non-air conditioned spaces like an interior door leading to a garage. There are a large variety of weather strips where most of them are available at home improvement stores for a low cost, so here’s what we recommend using:

  • Sweep stripping is perfect for exterior doors. These are made from rubber or vinyl and are installed along the bottom of your door via screws or adhesive backing.
  • Gasket stripping can be used for garage doors, and can be used in place of a sweep on exterior doors. These are made of rubber material and do a great job sealing the gap between your garage door and the floor. Installation is simple by screwing the gasket strip to the bottom of the door.
  • Tape stripping is great for windows, double-hung window rails, and any irregular gaps. Tape strips are very popular because they are made of felt and can be cut to a desired shape with a pair of scissors. Installation is extremely easy since these tape strips come with adhesive backing, so make sure you are attaching the strip to a clean surface to maximize insulation.

It’s important not to let a crack or gap go unnoticed to save energy costs and give your AC system a closed space to keep cool. Sealing your home can save you an average of 15 percent of your energy bill!

Two - Sunlight is your AC’s silent killer! 

Now that your home is sealed, why does your AC still have to work so hard to keep your house comfortable? Sunlight entering through windows carries infrared rays that heat up objects they come in contact with, which makes objects radiate heat and can turn rooms into ovens effectively (it can feel like one, right?). You can help keep your home cool by closing all the blinds before leaving for the day. Windows that face East or West can be particularly pesky due to a constant sunlight exposure, so we have a suggestion for keeping the sun’s heat outside (where it belongs):

Blackout curtains are multi-layered curtains that are woven tightly to keep out heat and keep cold air inside. Sun rays hitting these curtains will be reflected away from your home. Blackout curtains are found commonly in department stores and home improvement stores for a low cost. These are a great investment because they are low cost and are great in the winter time for keeping heat in! There are varieties of blackout curtains that have different colors, which can affect the light-blocking strength. Lighter colors like tan, white, or gray may let some light pass through and are not as effective, so we recommend curtains with dark shades of black, dark gray, or blue that can block up to 99 percent of light for the benefit of keeping your house cool.

Three - We are fans of fans, and you should be too!

Having fans in your home will help circulate cool air so you will feel cool without the need to blast your AC. If your ceiling fan is set on high and the room is still not comfortable, you should consider adjusting the fan’s spin setting. 

Did you know? During the summer, turn your ceiling fan blades counter clockwise. 

Sound strange? Here’s how it works: fan blades spinning in a counter clockwise direction will push air down and create a refreshing breeze throughout the room while maximizing energy efficiency. Because the breeze helps keep our skin cool, which enables us  to tolerate a higher AC setting but does not affect a home’s temperature, you don’t need to keep fans on everywhere — so make sure fans are only on while you are in the room to maximize energy efficiency. You can find the switch on the base of your ceiling fan (don’t forget to turn it off when you check!). 

Four - Make sure your AC is OK!

In Texas, our AC systems are crucial to cooling our homes to escape the summer heat. They take care of us, so make sure you take care of your AC! Skipping routine tune-ups can cause your system to become less effective and cost you more on energy: it could also decrease your AC system’s life span. It is recommended to replace your AC filter once a month, where filters are affordable and found in supermarkets or home improvement stores. It is common misconception that turning your AC to a much lower temperature will cool your home faster. The reality of lowering your temperature below your normal settings will If you can’t remember the last time you had your AC tune-up, we recommend scheduling a visit from a professional to make sure your AC is running at maximum efficiency.

Did you know?  You can get discounted AC tune ups in some parts of Texas! 
  • If you’re a Centerpoint customer, sign up for a free CoolSaver tune up here.
  • If you’re an AEP customer, sign up for a discounted CoolSaver tune up here.
  • If you’re a TNMP customer, sign up for a discounted CoolSaver tune up here
  • Oncor customers get great discounts on swapping their old A/Cs for newer, efficient models. Get started here

Ever noticed the “fan” setting on your air conditioning’s thermostat?

When the outdoor temperature goes down at nighttime, you can turn this setting on to save money on your energy bill. The “fan” setting does not run cooling cycles, instead it runs the air handler’s fan. Air in your home will run through the filter, improving air quality without affecting the temperature or humidity levels. Without the sun’s rays heating up your home, the "fan" setting on your AC system will save energy at night and you can still feel comfortable. 

Smart Thermostats are true to their name.

Smart thermostats help you save electricity and reduce energy costs through their programming. If you are not home for scheduled times throughout the week, you can program your thermostat to increase and decrease temperatures at certain times of the day. This way, your home is already set to your desired temperature when you return — we call this “pre-cooling” your home. Some smart thermostats, such as the ecobee, have settings to ‘follow you’, where the corresponding app on your phone tells the thermostat which rooms to keep cool depending on where you are in your home, eliminating the need for your AC system to cool vacant rooms and saving energy! Most smart thermostats track your AC’s watt usage, so we recommend using these useful features to help control energy efficiency in your home. 

Did you know?  You can get discounted smart thermostats through your utility in parts of Texas!

Five - Unplug those unused appliances!

Most households have appliances that need to be plugged in all the time, such as an internet router, refrigerator or freezer. For those non-continuous-use appliances (like hair dryers, coffeemakers, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and phone chargers), unplug when you’re not using them! Even if the gadget is turned off, it still sucks energy through the power cord. If your machine has a light on when you power it ‘off’, it is still using energy! Phone and laptop chargers are common energy thieves because they use power even when not charging your phone. The good news is this can be managed easily by plugging these cords into a power strip and turning off the power strip when you’re not using it. Power strips are low cost and common in supermarkets and home improvement stores. You can also use smart power strips to allow you to program times when you know you’ll use an appliance. You can also unplug your appliance from the wall after turning it off if you do not have a power strip. These are ways you can rest assured that your power is only being used when you need it.

Six - Cook outside for less heat in your home!

Your AC is most likely working hard to keep your home cool, so you should help out when you can by cooking outside. This will reduce stress on your AC from excess heat, which comes from using your oven or stovetop while cooking. Enjoy the outdoors by firing up the grill! Spend more time with family by saving time from doing dishes, grill up some of your favorites, and relax…besides, it’s that much more flavorful! 

Seven - Use lights that help you save money!

The type of light bulb you use can make a big difference in your energy bill. According to the Department of Energy, one of the quickest ways to lower your electric bill is to switch to LED bulbs; lighting makes up around 15 percent of an average home's energy consumption, and the average household saves about $225 in energy costs per year by using LED lighting. This is a simple, cost effective trick that will pay for itself over time. Make sure you are buying bulbs with the ENERGY STAR rating to get the highest efficiency and the best long-term value. You can also switch out your rudimentary ‘on/off’ light switches for dimmer and timer switches to be even more energy efficient. You can set timer switches to turn on and off for certain times of the day, and you can use dimmers for the precise level of lighting you need. These bulbs will also help out your AC by producing less heat. According to LIFX, “The hottest outside surface of an LED light bulb is often half the temperature of an equivalent brightness Incandescent or Halogen bulb, and around 20 percent cooler than CFL bulbs.” Not only are these bulbs energy efficient, they are also heat efficient! 

Did you know?  You can get discounted LED light bulbs through your utility in parts of Texas!

Eight - Stay cool all night long!

At night, you may be tempted to turn down your thermostat’s temperature setting, but there is an alternative that will help lower your energy bill and keep you comfortable at the same time. We all know there are mattresses engineered to keep you cool, but how about something a little more cost friendly? There are mattress toppers and bedding sets made specifically to keep you cool at night. Purchase cooling mattress toppers (here is a list by The Sleep Foundation of the Best Cooling Mattress Toppers) to easily add on top of your mattress, and add a set of comfortable sheets and pillow cases. The Sleep Foundation has made a list of materials known for moisture wicking and breathability: cotton, silk, tencel, and rayon made from bamboo. Also, we recommend upgrading your pillow to optimize cooling during the night. You can visit this link to see the list made by The Sleep Foundation of the Best Cooling Pillows

Good to Know: When Should I Use Energy?

In Texas, most people tend to use the most energy from 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM, during the hottest hours of the day. These hours are called “peak hours” where there is a high demand for energy from the electric grid. Partial peak hours are from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM and again between 7:00 and 9:00 PM. Because Texas operates on its own grid and cannot pull energy from other parts of the country, it is important to monitor these peak times in case of a grid overload or failure. You can help fellow Texans by using your energy during off-peak hours, before 10:00AM and after 9:00 PM. When the grid is stressed, there is a larger potential for grid issues like power plant fires or plant failures. So, you can do your part and set your dish washers, washing machines, clothes drying machines, and other appliances to run during the off-peak hours at night and minimize the grid’s stress. 

Follow these tips to save energy and stay cool during hot summer months!

Not only will you feel good about a lower energy bill, but lowering energy usage also helps the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. On average, one kilowatt-hour of energy produces a little over one pound of carbon dioxide (CO2). We recommend using 100% green energy; even though 1 kilowatt hour of green energy still releases CO2, it only releases about 50 grams or less of CO2 per kWh over its lifetime compared to coal (1,000 grams per kWh) and natural gas (475 grams per kWh).

Following these 8 tips can help lower your energy bill, help stabilize the grid, and lower emissions overall!

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