Energy saving tips to cut back on high power bills

Erin Browne

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Rising gas prices, inflation and increasing summer temperatures could all lead to higher power bills this summer.

“That’s driving up the price of electricity, so anything any of us can do to save a few kilowatt hours of electricity is going to help all of us,” said Nick Comer, external affairs specialist for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

Here’s a list of recommendations to help cut back some of the costs on your monthly electric bill.

1. Check the Air Conditioning Unit

Your air conditioner accounts for 6% of overall energy consumption. It requires regular maintenance to function efficiently throughout its years of service. Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures poor performance and unnecessarily high energy use. Checking the coils, fins, evaporative cooler, and heat pump may require the services of a professional.

Replacing the air filter is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to make sure that your A/C runs smoothly and efficiently. Clean or replace your air conditioning system’s filter every month or two. Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce your air conditioner’s ability to absorb heat. Replacing a dirty filter with a clean one can lower your A/C’s energy usage by up to 15%.

Vacuum air vents regularly to remove any dust buildup and ensure that furniture and other objects are not blocking the airflow through your vents. Avoid placing lamps or TV sets near your thermostat. The thermostat will sense the heat these appliances create, which can cause your A/C to run longer than necessary.

2. Use the Thermostat Wisely

Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer, ideally 78°F or higher. Every degree of extra cooling will increase energy usage 6-8%. Keep your house warmer than normal when your family is away at school and work and lower the temperature only when people are at home. Avoid lowering the thermostat while air conditioning is running. It won’t cool your house any faster and may result in energy waste.

A smart thermostat can make these temperature transitions easy. Smart thermostats are Wi-Fi enabled devices that automatically adjust the temperature settings in your home for peak energy efficiency. Smart thermostats learn your habits and preferences and establish a schedule that automatically adjusts to energy-saving temperatures when you are asleep or away.

3. Use Fans with A/C

Running a fan is much cheaper than running your air conditioning. In fact, running a fan 24/7 for an entire month would only cost about $5 on your electricity bill. The air flow creates a wind chill effect that helps people feel more comfortable, but it does nothing to change the temperature. If you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to set your thermostat setting about 4°F higher with no reduction in comfort. Remember to turn your fans off when you leave the house. With no people around to feel the wind chill effect, the fans aren’t doing much except making your energy bill slightly higher.

4. Close the Blinds

Close your blinds or drapes in the daytime to keep out the greenhouse effect of the sun. Southern- and western-facing walls take the brunt of the sun’s heat, so invest in good drapes or shades for the windows on these walls and keep them closed. North-facing windows admit relatively even, natural light, producing little glare and almost no unwanted summer heat gain. You can leave these shades open to admit natural light into your house without heating things up.

5. Avoid the Oven

Cooking with a conventional oven can add unwanted heat to your house, forcing the A/C to work harder. Do more of your cooking with a microwave or slow cooker to keep the kitchen cool. Better yet, use the summer heat as an excuse to fire up the old backyard grill.

6. Wash Strategically

Washing machines, clothes dryers, and dishwashers all generate a ton of heat. Cut back on this by only using cold water to do your washing. Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes to avoid running the appliances too much. Avoid using your clothes dryer entirely. After washing, hang up your wet clothes to air dry.

The cold water technique isn’t just for clothes and dishes; you can use it for your body as well. It may take some getting used to, but a cold shower can be brisk and refreshing in the hot, sweaty months of summer. Since you’re not using as much hot water, you can also turn down the temperature on your water heater. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heating can account for 14-25% of your total energy use. Turning the heater down to the warm setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit can save a few bucks every month.

7. Opt for LED Light Bulbs

If you’re still using incandescent light bulbs, then it’s time to switch to LED lights. Incandescent bulbs are extremely inefficient. Only about 10 -15% of the electricity that they use gets turned into light—the rest becomes waste heat. LED lights are the most energy-efficient lighting option currently available. They use 75% less energy, last 25 times longer, and run much cooler than standard incandescent lights. They cost a little more up front but soon pay for themselves in energy savings.

8. If You Aren’t Using It, Unplug It

From your computer to your toaster, all electronics generate heat. Even if it’s switched off, just being plugged in generates a small amount of heat in the wiring. To keep things cool, unplug any electronics you’re not using. It’s not much per device, but add up all the gizmos in your home, and it can make a few degrees difference.

9. Seal Your Home

Insulation isn’t just for the cold winter months. Preventing air leaks is one of the best, cost efficient ways to keep warm air out and cool air in. Simple caulking and weather-stripping can save up to 30% on heating and cooling costs. Sealing your home against these leaks is easy, effective, and relatively inexpensive.

Use caulk to seal cracks and openings between stationary objects like door and window frames. Apply weather-stripping around things that move, such as window sashes and the door itself. Be sure to check attics and basements for air leaks, as these areas can have large gaps in insulation or missing weather-stripping. Seal the small cracks with foam or caulk. For larger holes, you may need to install or replace insulation.

If you’re struggling to pay your utility, contact the company directly to see if you can set up a payment plan, or opt for a budget payment program.

West Virginia assistance can be found here.

To learn about resources in Kentucky, click here.

Access to Ohio resources can be done by clicking this link.

Federal government programs can be found at this link.

Copyright 2022 WSAZ. All rights reserved.

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