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    Does it cost you more to cool your home than to heat it? Why energy conservation makes sense in the summer.

    Most of us have a tendency to focus on home energy saving during cold weather months, when heating bills rise and you can actually feel chilly drafts coming through leaky windows and poorly insulated attics and crawl spaces.

      Energywasting home But your home can lose just as much if not more energy during the hot summer, when those same windows and attics are leaking air - but in the reverse. (red, pink and yellow spaces in infrared photo of house at left show where energy is leaking). Take a look at the numbers from my latest electricity bill, below (I live just outside Washington, DC). I used twice as much electricity in June this year than I did in November last year, and more in July than I did in December or January.

     

     

    DIANE'S ELECTRICITY USAGE ...


    NOVEMBER 2010 - 590 KWH  - compared to JUNE 2011 - 1180 KWH

    DECEMBER 2010 - 1190 KWH, JANUARY 2011 - 1300 KWH - compared to JULY 2011 - 1480 KWH

     In other words, when I compare the coldest months of the year to the hottest, it's actually costing me more to cool my home than to heat it.

    Take a look at your own electricity bill and make a similar comparison. Then consider these recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the amount of energy you're using.

    #1 - Insulate. Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your area. Insulation is measured in R-values—the higher the R-value, the better your walls and roof will resist the transfer of heat. DOE recommends ranges of R-values based on local heating and cooling costs and climate conditions in different areas of the nation. This map and chart show the DOE recommendations for your area. State and local code minimum insulation requirements may be less than the DOE recommendations, which are based on cost effectiveness. For more customized insulation recommendations, check out this Zip Code Insulation Calculator. It provides insulation levels for your new or existing home based on your zip code and other basic information about your home.  While you're at it, insulate around cooling and heating ducts to prevent additional energy loss. That step alone could improve your HVAC performance 20%. When choosing insulation, look for cellulosic-based material made from recycled fabric and paper.

    Window insulator kit #2 - Weatherize. Add weather stripping to seal leaky frames around doors and windows. You can buy it in long rolls and cut it to fit without much hassle, especially if you buy the self-adhesive kind. Most hardware stores will carry a variety of weatherstripping, or you can purchase it online here.

     #3 - Change your HVAC air filters. EPA's EnergyStar program recommends changing air filters at least every three months, though monthly is better, especially in summer and winter, when your heating and cooling systems are working their hardest.

    #4 - Use blinds, drapes and curtains. Even after you've insulated your windows, keep the sun from coming through them by drawing the curtains or closing the blinds.

    Programmable thermostat 2

    #5 - Moderate your indoor air temps using a programmable thermostat. There's no need to keep your house extremely cool when you go to work or otherwise leave for extended periods of time. A programmable thermostat makes it easy to automatically turn your air conditioning up when you leave for work and down a bit before you get home. Here are a few thermostat options to choose from.

     

    NOTE: Both DOE and my local utility recommend keeping the thermostat at 78 degrees when you're home. If you need additional cooling, try a small table top or window fan.

     

    SHOP OUR STORE for more energy-saving products, including programmable thermostats, weatherstripping, fans, power strips, and timers.

    RELATED POSTS

    Top 10 Ways to Keep Cool When the Planet Heats Up

    Top 10 Ways to Save Energy and Money at Home

     

     

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    Comments

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    Adrian Desbarats

    Something I thought of but have not yet tried is this:

    If you have a basement, this is a place where the air is always cool, even in summer since it is kept cool by the earth. So why not run some vents between the basement and upstairs with a fan. In summer, turn on the fan and push cool air upstairs and an opposing fan to move warm air downstairs?

    Something to consider..

    Rachel White

    Diane, Thanks for reminding us that energy conservation isn't only for winter. Given your climate, it isn't all that surprising that your electric bill is higher in the summer than it is in the winter. Am I correct in assuming that you have electric heat? If you have another heat source (gas perhaps) then you would need to factor that into your analysis as well.

    adam @ greendoglove.com

    Thanks for the tips. I'm all about efficiency and reducing energy usage.

    Is it expensive to install adjustable thermostats? Or is it relatively simple?

    Diane MacEachern

    Well...I had mine installed, but if you know electronics, you could probably easily do it.

    Account Deleted

    Great post. These energy saving tips really matter. Even the simplest thing, like putting up blinds and curtains, plays important role.

    This site is also helpful: http://bestblindsaround.com/. Thanks for the post. Keep it up.

    Diane MacEachern

    Thanks for the link, Mary!

    keith

    Great article. You can also use passive solar techniques to give you energy savings for both Summer and Winter - see the article on my link for more information on how to this. There are ways you can save money and save the planet at the same time.

    Lily

    Very cool article. I recently read (and never even thought of this) but painting your roof a white color or buying lighter colored shingles... Great tips & love the blog!

    Metal Roofing supplier

    Great tips! I've saved money following these steps. I've had a home inspector come and show me how I was losing energy each month. I'm now currently installing a metal roof, and this should help!
    - Jessica

    layton roofing

    Great post.Conserving energy you can save money at a time...

    dranon

    Wrapping your hot water heater with an insulated blanket and insulating the hot water pipes will save money on utilities as well. It costs more than people realize to keep hot water at the ready 24-7, especially in colder climates.

    Roselyn Withem

    We generally consume more energy during the hot season because heat travels faster than cold. So during the winter, when we heat our house, it gets warm easily. But on summer days, it takes time to cool the house because it is heavier than heat.

    Diane MacEachern

    Thanks so much for your observations. Keep 'em coming!

    custom home builders northern virginia

    Great tips Diane! I'm going to send a link to your blog post to my client list, summer isn't that far off and I think everyone could benefit from reading this. Thanks!

    Diane MacEachern

    I'm delighted you find the information useful. Let me know what else you need to help your clients become more efficient.

    orlando roofing company

    A good practice is to get your roof checked before the summer hits here in Orlando, Florida. Energy efficient housing can go a long way in saving on household expenses.

    Charlotte Black

    I believe the faster to cool or faster to warm home depends on the location. I guess the costing will just balance out throughout the year. If it is easier to cool a home, it might be harder to warm it and vice versa.

    Craig Marsh

    Adrian Desbarats, that's a great idea I will need to put to the test!

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