By Kendal Perez, Frugal Shopping Expert
Heating and cooling our homes represents the biggest chunk of utility bills, according to the Department of Energy. About 54 percent of utility costs are attributed to heating and air conditioning, resulting in the majority of your monthly energy use.
Despite this dismal discovery, there’s good news: You can reduce your energy consumption and resulting utility cost by as much as 50 percent with proper equipment, maintenance and daily practices.
Take a look at these tips to help cut your cooling costs this summer:
Prepare Your Windows: As much as you might enjoy the sunshine, keeping as much as possible out of your home during peak hours will help reduce your overall cooling costs. Before you leave in the morning, make sure all blinds are closed. If you have single-pane windows, consider applying tinted film in the interim, or replacing them with more efficient double-pane windows.
Seal Up Seams: Energy Star estimates you can save as much as 20 percent on your energy costs by properly sealing your windows. Patching air leaks around A/C window units is especially important since cool air can easily escape around the accordion sides. Use a foam insulation kit to create a tighter seal around the unit, and close doors to unused rooms to keep the cool air contained in your preferred space.
Consider a Whole-House Approach: Whole house fans circulate cool air throughout your home while simultaneously expelling hot air from your attic and upper levels through roof vents. If you live in a region where mornings and evenings are cool and comfortable, consider investing in one of these devices. Look for printable coupons from CouponSherpa.com, or in weekly circulars to help offset the cost of this investment. Since whole-house fans use about one-tenth of the energy of A/C units, you’ll be saving a bundle on your energy costs.
Keep it Constant: When your home is too warm, you may try to overcompensate by turning the temperature on your thermostat way down. However, this strategy will not cool your home faster. In actuality it will make your furnace work longer and increase your energy use. Instead, keep your thermostat set around 78 degrees, and always have the fan setting on your central-air system switched to “on.” This gives you better control over cooling and can save up to $25 on your monthly bill.
Feed Your Inner Cool: Keeping your internal temperature cool can help mitigate the effects of warm temperatures. Heat waves essentially give you permission to eat ice cream and drink smoothies! Staying hydrated with ice water is also important. If that’s too plain for your tastes, throw in a slice of lemon for extra kick and a vitamin C boost. Preparing cool dishes for dinner -- like salads and sandwiches -- will also help keep your cooling system from competing with your oven.
Use a Programmable Thermostat: A programmable thermostat can save you up to $180 per year on cooling costs when programmed correctly, according to Energy Star. Keeping your space icy cool while you’re at work is a waste of energy and money, so program your device to turn on an hour before you get home. High-tech devices like the Nest require more of an investment, but enable you to control your home’s temperature remotely using your smartphone.
Use Ceiling Fans Wisely: Ceiling fans are a great addition to your whole-house cooling system when used properly. Once your home hits the desired temperature, turn on your ceiling fans to get air circulating and turn up your thermostat by a couple degrees. The constant flow of air helps you stay cooler without relying as much on your air conditioner. Be sure the fan blades turn counterclockwise, and don’t leave them on in an empty room.
Power Down Electronics: Your TV, computer and sound system are not only energy vampires, they also sabotage your A/C’s efforts to cool your space. By powering down your system before you leave for work and prior to going to bed, your A/C will have to do less work keeping your home cool. Invest in some power strips to make this task much easier.
Kendal Perez is a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the marketing coordinator for Kinoli Inc., site manager for a family of money-saving websites, Kendal has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as People StyleWatch, TIME Business & Money, FOX, ABC, and Kiplinger Personal Finance. For savings tips and more information, visit HassleFreeSavings.com. For all media inquiries, please contact Kendal Perez at firstname.lastname@example.org.