Summertime Energy Saving Ideas
I love Summertime, when all the grass is green, the trees are lush, and all the flowers in my garden are growing and blooming. I like feeling the sun on my skin when I’m swimming or just puttering around the yard. I also LOVE my air conditioner! Nothing feels better than coming into a cool house on a hot, hot day. But there is a price to pay for all that cooling, oh yes, there is: ridiculous electric bills. This is especially true if you live in an older house like we do, with single pane windows and probably inadequate insulation.
Energy costs by the hour
But there is a way to help minimize these costs to an extent. Our electric carrier, Oklahoma Gas and Electric, has a program call SmartHours that helps consumers reduce their electric bill. Even if a similar program isn’t available in your area, the basic principle applies: Find out when electricity is cheapest, and use it then, while trying to reduce your usage during peak demand hours. Yup, energy cost changes BY THE HOUR in most places, and we pay the most when demand is highest. OGE’s peak hours are 2-7 pm, right when people are coming home from school or work.
Buy a Programmable Thermostat
When we signed up for the program, we got some pretty nifty stuff. Probably the most important was a programmable thermostat. So we can keep the AC use to a minimum when no one is home. It is also set to “pre-cool” the house just before peak hours, so it is less likely to run and cost us money when electricity cost is highest. Even if you have to pay out of pocket for a programmable thermostat, it’s well worth it; average savings is 5-10% of your bill.
Make your home more energy efficient
Along with our super-nifty thermostat, we also got a whole box of goodies to help us make our house more energy efficient. This included self-adhesive foam window sealer, weather stripping, caulk, and outlet insulator-thingys. Of course, we didn’t get enough to do the whole house, but it’s a start, and none of this stuff is terribly expensive. Since the outlets insulators were the quickest to do, I started with these. The package I got had several varieties in it; switch, GFI outlet, regular outlet, and cable outlet. If your home is on a slab, then you only need to do the exterior walls, where cold air might seep in. If you have a crawlspace or unfinished basement, then arguably, you should consider doing the interior outlets as well. This is super simple: take the outlet cover off, put the appropriate foam insulator-thingy on, and then put the outlet cover back on. When you put the cover on, it compresses the foam and makes a tight seal. Presto, your house is now a teensy bit more airtight. Just another 15 or so outlets to go!
Energy efficient windows
Once I finished this up, I moved on to windows. Now I foolishly thought since this house had been remodeled just before we moved into it, that I wouldn’t find much to do with the windows. Just goes to prove that I haven’t spent much time looking closely at my windows! Most of them are older single-pane windows. Not the picture of energy efficiency (haha, I
made a punny; picture, window…oh, never mind). Some of the windows had cracked caulking around the edges, and several of the window sills had been replaced, and never recaulked, so outside air was seeping in! So I had to do quite a bit of caulking. I used the tubes that OGE put in our goodie box; paintable latex caulk, which is fine for indoors. I put down a tape line on the sill so it would look neat, and used my finger to smooth the caulk with. You can use a finger with latex caulk since it will wash off with water until it sets.
After I finished the caulking, I put the self-adhesive foam on the sash to eliminate air leaks. Another real energy saver, although it wasn’t in my goodie box, is Solar Screen. You can get it at the box stores, or online. Then use it to replace the fabric in your screens, to deflect 85% of the sun’s UV rays, thereby reducing heat gain through your windows. To replace the screen fabric you will also need Spline and a Spline Tool.
The last item in the OGE box was self-adhesive foam weatherstripping. As it turned out, all our doors have metal weatherstripping, so I didn’t need this. Although it’s a bit more time intensive to install, the metal stripping will last much longer than stick-on foam, so might be worth considering. Once windows and doors are caulked and sealed, it can also save 5-10% on your electric bill.
Now, having done all I can to help make our home asenergy efficient as possible, I think I’ll go enjoy the cool!