Here’s how members can beat the price of staying
comfortable through a long, hot Texas summer.
With summer in full swing, being energy conscious and breaking bad habits can reduce energy consumption. Once temperatures begin the ascent to triple digits, members across United’s service territory struggle to stay comfortable within their homes. United’s trusted energy advisors know many ways to reduce energy consumption without sacrificing comfort in the home this summer. Here’s their best advice on how to beat the heat and high bills.
In the summer, air conditioning is by far the largest factor in determining how much electricity is consumed. Thermostat settings affect electric consumption dramatically. United recommends setting the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher in the summer. Each degree that is deviated from this recommendation equates to about a 5 percent increase on a monthly electric bill. Additionally, make sure the thermostat is set a few degrees warmer if the home is unoccupied during the day. Although this recommendation may be too warm for some, utilizing a higher setpoint on the thermostat in conjunction with a fan will lead to reasonable comfort and decreased usage. Always remember that fans cool people, not rooms. So, be sure to only utilize fans proximal to people.
Investing funds in an air conditioner now can provide more savings on future bills and prevent unexpected surprises from occurring on the hottest days. One of the more inexpensive, yet commonly overlooked, factors of an AC is the filter. Changing filters regularly will reduce the wear and tear on the system and lower run time, both equating to decreased energy usage and increased system lifespan.
Most one-inch filters should be changed out each month to ensure proper air flow through the system. A more expensive recommendation, though highly advised, is having an AC tune-up performed on the system regularly. These tune-ups will ensure the AC system is running at its upmost efficiency by checking the refrigerant charge, cleaning coils, and checking thermostat function.
A tune-up may also identify potential issues with the AC and give plenty of warning before a costly repair. In addition, an HVAC system will have an increased lifespan and better performance if regular tune-ups are performed by a certified AC technician. United also offers up to $100 per HVAC system, per year, as a rebate to our members. Make sure to take advantage of this popular rebate. If costly repairs are becoming a frequent occurrence, or the system is showing signs of old age, replacing the AC system with a new energy efficient system can dramatically reduce electrical consumption while providing a more comfortable interior within the home.
Windows and Doors
Another major factor that affects energy consumption in the summer is a home’s infiltration. Windows and doors are naturally inefficient as they provide the easiest way for hot air to enter the home. Taking the appropriate steps to seal and cover windows and doors will reduce both the runtime of the AC as well as the electric bill.
Caulking around the interior and exterior of windows can slow the exchange of hot air into the home’s conditioned interior. In addition, replace old, cracked, or missing weather stripping on all exterior doors and attic entrances within the home. Make sure no exterior light is penetrating around the door on a sunny day and feel for drafts to confirm proper installation. This will ultimately reduce the amount of heat exchange from the outside as well.
Heat can also enter the home through window glass. Having double-paned, low-E windows are recommended. However, due to their high cost, installing solar screens or blackout curtains to windows is an effective, lower-cost way to reduce the intensity of heat that can penetrate the home. This will reduce the overall heat absorption of the windows and keep the home cooler through the Texas summer.
Another commonly overlooked power consumer outside the home is a pool pump. As many of our members have pools, it is important to keep the runtime of the pool pump to a minimum. United recommends members run their pumps for one hour per 10 degrees outside. This means that in the summer, pools should optimally be run 9 to 10 hours per day to maintain a clean pool without over-paying on the electric bill. If the pool remains clean with even less runtime of the pool pump, this will only increase the savings seen on summer electric bills.
Other Heat Sources
Lastly, heat produced by various appliances in the home will cause an AC to work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature. These include the oven/stove, dishwasher, clothes dryer and even lights.
Only use the oven and stove when necessary, as the radiant heat these give off will cause a home to become warmer, leading to increased AC runtime.
Heat also is released into the home by dishwashers and clothes dryers. As most of these appliances are essential, simply be conscious of how often and how long these are running to keep the home’s interior as cool as possible.
Finally, remember older incandescent light bulbs produce heat when in use. Replace these outdated light bulbs with LEDs, as these light bulb upgrades not only will provide direct usage savings, but also indirect cooling savings within the home during the summer.
Overall, the Texas summer heat presents a challenge to our members trying to use as little electricity as possible. Taking a wholistic approach to fight the heat will allow for not only a more comfortable home in the summer, but a lower electric bill as well. As with any energy efficient measure, please feel free to contact one of United’s Energy Advisors with questions, or to sign up for a free energy audit that will specifically identify weaknesses that a home may present.