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.
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.
#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.
#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.
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