How to save energy and stay cool during a heat wave

Jun 14, 2011 By Alan Heavens

Nature doesn't appear willing to cut consumers a break. Neither does the economy.

Longer, colder winters turn quickly into prolonged, hotter summers. To add insult to injury, it seems to be happening while the cost of energy is skyrocketing.

Recent 90-degree-plus days in the nation's East tested the endurance of even those who thrive on sultry weather. As household electric meters spin at warp speed, how can you rein in "and remain as comfortable as possible?

"My first response would be to add insulation to ensure a well-sealed house, but if homeowners cannot manage it in the middle of a , I understand," said Ronnie Kweller, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Alliance to Save Energy in Washington.

A no-heavy-lifting alternative: buying an Energy Star-rated for "as little as $25."

"When the house is empty, the thermostat could be turned up and set to have the temperature drop to more comfortable levels by the time you arrive home," Kweller said.

Just doing that can cut energy expenses by 10 percent, she said, adding that the cost of cooling a house in summer averages about 12 percent of your annual bill.

Most utility companies and energy-efficiency advocates recommend raising the thermostat to 78 degrees when you're home, 85 degrees when you're away. Based on a 2,400-square-foot house, the savings-per-degree equals $4, according to Georgia Power in Atlanta.

Other fairly easy ways to chill a bit include replacing furnace/air-conditioning filters regularly, as recommended by the manufacturer; closing blinds, curtains and shades on the sunny side of the house, and using energy-efficient lights that don't produce a lot of heat - or just shutting off the lights when you leave a room.

A variety of sources offer ways to cut costs while staying if not cool, then less hot - for longer-term solutions, you may well have to install that extra insulation, or replace older air conditioners or central-air systems:

Massachusetts utility company NStar, among others, suggests using a ceiling fan in hot weather, to create a cool breeze and keep air circulating.

To get rid of hot air while you're cooking, turn on an exhaust fan; the savings on cooling costs will far outweigh the electricity used by the fan.

Instead of using your oven or stove, which will generate even more heat, fire up the outdoor grill.

Take lukewarm showers and baths to avoid humid air, which holds heat.

Make sure you have the appropriate sized dehumidifier for your home. They can be a big drain on power.

Not all energy-saving measures have to do with keeping comfortable. And some measures require an explanation.

The California Energy Commission's Consumer Energy Center, for example, says that "having lots of food in your fridge keeps it from warming up too fast when the door is open."

"I just checked with a couple of my wise young policy/research colleagues, and it seems that there are two reasons why it's better to keep the refrigerator full when possible," Kweller said. "The solid food itself retains the cold, and the tightly packed items serve as a physical barrier to the cold air rushing out when the door is opened."

A corollary to this: letting hot items cool down before placing them in the refrigerator, so it doesn't have to work as hard to cool them.

The California energy center also advises that microwaves use two-thirds less than a stove does.

Dishwashers use less water, some hot, than washing by hand. Letting dishes air-dry saves electricity.

Speaking of washing:

Do laundry in a more energy-conscious way by using the warm or cold water setting. Use cold water to rinse clothes (savings: 4 percent).

Line-dry clothes whenever you can (savings: 5 percent).

When you run the dryer, do full loads, use the moisture-sensing setting, and clean the lint trap after each use (savings: 0.5 percent).

Most new electronics use electricity even when they are switched off. Unplug phones and chargers; turn computers and printers off at the power strip (savings: 1 percent to 2 percent).

"There are so many variables, so that's why we talk about savings up to a certain percentage," Kweller said.

Unplug or recycle that spare refrigerator if you don't really need it. It can save you up to $150 per year.

Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to save even more money on your electricity bill.

When baking, Georgia Power says, avoid opening the oven door, which lets out 20 percent of the heat. Use a timer. When cooking on top of the stove, use pots and pans that match the size of your burners, which brings more heat to the pan and less to the surrounding area.

Kweller said she, like many of us, often wonders why, with all the energy-efficient products now available, utility costs continue to increase.

Then again, she added, "Could you imagine what your bill would be like without energy-efficient products?"

Explore further: Pollution top concern for U.S. and Canadian citizens around Great Lakes

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Many Tricks Can Save Electricity

Feb 23, 2009

The electric bill this winter is more than a car payment, and you've decided to take action. But if you're not well-schooled, it's best to take some advice from the pros before stalking heat-saving products up and down the ...

Shade Tree Coverage Reduces Power Costs

Nov 15, 2008

An Auburn University study sheds new light on just how valuable shade trees are in reducing homeowners’ electricity bills during hot summer months.

Energy-efficient house a wish come true for Santa

Dec 20, 2004

Christmas costs can make us all a bit less jolly, but there are a number of ways even Ole St. Nick can save money throughout the year and help offset the high cost of the holiday. For openers, the Clauses could live in ...

Recommended for you

Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US

Apr 17, 2014

The White House Thursday announced a series of measures aimed at increasing solar energy production in the United States, particularly by encouraging the installation of solar panels in public spaces.

Tailored approach key to cookstove uptake

Apr 17, 2014

Worldwide, programs aiming to give safe, efficient cooking stoves to people in developing countries haven't had complete success—and local research has looked into why.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...