Seasonally, one would assume that winter (aka the holiday gift buying and traveling season) would be one of the most expensive times of year. However, after taking a detailed look at my family's expenses, if I factored in utility bills, summer is one of the most expensive seasons. In hopes of bringing our utility bills lower (and because moving away to a cooler climate during the summer was not an option) I came up with a few easy ways to help minimize your summer utility bills.
I'll start with one of the easiest tricks in the book; draw blinds, shades, or drapes to block the sun during the hottest part of the day. This works best for the south and west facing windows in your home.
Stop doing chores! I should clarify; try not to run the heat generating appliances — such as the dishwasher, drier or oven — during the peak heat of the day. Generally, the hottest time of the day is between 1pm-4pm, depending on where you live. Instead, try line drying your clothes, cooking outdoors and waiting to run the dishwasher or hand wash dishes at night when the temperature is cooler. These tasks make you house warmer, causing your air conditioner to work harder in order to keep the house cool. I won't tell if you use this as an excuse to do fewer chores this summer.
Take advantage of ceiling fans only when you are in the room. Running the fan does not actually lower the temperature, so running it while you are not sitting underneath it, will not help your air conditioner run less frequently. Also, close the doors to rooms that you are not using (for example, a guest room) and make sure the cooling ducts are closed in those rooms. Remember to turn off lights when they are not in use. Lights produce heat, which makes your air conditioning system work harder (and costs more).
These tasks are not as easy, but ensure you clean or replace air filters routinely for central air conditioners, individual window units or wall units. Dirt and dust hinder air flow, thus reducing efficiency, so it's a good idea to check them on a regular basis. I set a reminder on my smart phone to let me know when it's time to change the filter. If you have an outdoor air conditioning unit, make sure the area is clear of dirt and debris (in my case this also included a few spider webs). You want to ensure that nothing is prohibiting the flow of air into your unit.
Short of moving to Antarctica or wearing only a swimsuit during the summer months, I find that setting my air conditioner at a comfortable and consistent level (between 76-78 degrees) and following the steps above, I save money each month to spend on something more fun, or I can put it towards a rainy day fund.
How do you cut energy costs during warmer months?