When the weather outside is hot and muggy, the only thing on your mind is cooling off—no matter what it takes. But energy waste can pump up your electricity bills to epic levels if you’re not careful, making your home less-than-eco-friendly.
Most people tend to think about their home thermostats like a simple dial—coming in from outside on a hot day, you may feel the urge to push the temperature down to 65 to cool off quickly. But that’s not how heating and cooling works—thermostats are more like “temperature regulators,” so it takes the same amount of time to move the dial a degree as it does to move it ten. But meanwhile, you’re using up way more energy than you need to.
That’s just one example of how misunderstandings about home cooling can affect energy expenses. Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions, and what you can do to stay and keep your home’s carbon footprint low.
Pair your AC with an energy-efficient ceiling fan
Yes, a super-chilled home will keep you cool—but when you’re really hot, a fan may be a better option to cool off fast. That’s because of how the cooling mechanisms in our bodies work; sweat evaporating brings our internal temperatures down, and a ceiling fan circulates air throughout the home, essentially creating a wind chill effect. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that a ceiling fan will allow you to raise your AC up to 4 degrees higher during the summertime—but inefficient fan motors can still drive up costs. When you’re shopping for a new fan, search for a model with a low-watt high-efficiency motor, like the EcoMotor from Emerson.
Switch to LED lights throughout your home
You’ve probably already heard the gospel about LEDs: they last longer and are less energy-hungry than incandescent bulbs. However, they also have an extra advantage during those summertime heat waves—they stay much cooler than traditional lights. In fact, Energy Circle, an online retailer, measured the external heat of various bulbs and found that LEDs ran a full 150 degrees cooler than incandescent halogen bulbs. Imagine how much energy you’d save if you installed LED bulbs in all your overhead ceiling units, like the ones in the IkGLO LED fixtures available from Emerson. Plus, as a bonus, your new LED fixtures won’t attract insects either—bugs are attracted to the ultraviolet light in traditional bulbs, something that many LED bulbs don’t emit.
Help your AC run its best
It’s easy to forget about your AC system, quietly churning out cool air—until it gives up on you. Meanwhile, taking proper care of your unit also ensures that you’ll use less energy in the long run. Yes, that means changing filter frequently (about once a month is ideal, especially when the AC is on full blast), but it also means servicing your AC regularly as well. Have a technician inspect and clean the outdoor machinery as well, especially the evaporative coils.
Make sure cool air stays in the home
We always hear a lot about weatherstripping and air sealing during the winter months, but cooled air can leak out in the summertime just as easily. Perform an inspection on your home’s air sealing now, while we’re still getting some breezy days. Take a lit candle and carry it from room to room, paying particular attention near windows, doors, and ducts. If the flame lies flat, you’ll know that you may be dealing with a leak in that room. To correct it, apply caulking to all static window parts and duct exits, and add weatherstripping to moving joints around doors and windows. For large gaps, switch to expandable foam. You’ll also want to check out your attic—if it’s uninsulated or if there are gaps between your attic floor, you could be losing tons of cool air every second. It may not feel like it now, but you’ll be doing a lot to save energy just by making this one simple change in your home.
About the Writer
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.