Tips for Cutting Your Energy Costs This Summer
I’ll admit right away that I don’t have the professional expertise that my colleagues in LSS Financial Counseling share with people wanting to increase their financial wellness. I’ve benefited from that expertise, and I’ve developed additional skills on my own to help me manage my monthly expenses. One way I control spending is by closely monitoring my energy usage. Here are some tips I’ve used or learned to keep energy costs down during the summer. Some you can use right away; others involve decisions you can make now that have an impact beyond this summer.
Cut Your Cooling Costs
Air conditioners (AC) and air conditioning systems use more energy than any other home appliance during the summer.
- Set the AC temperature as high as is comfortable for you.
- Use ceiling and floor fans instead of the AC when you can.
- Keep your AC coils clean to improve efficiency.
- Find and seal leaky ducts, drafts around doors and windows, fireplace dampers and other places where cool air might escape.
- Plant a tree near your house. Xcel Energy says that carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of the cooling energy a typical household uses.
Prepare Meals That Require Little or No Energy Consumption
- Eat more foods that don’t require heating at all, like salads.
- When you do cook, use a microwave, toaster oven or crock pot instead of your oven. According to EnergyStar.gov, a microwave, for example, can use up to 80% less energy than a conventional oven, depending on the quantity of food you are preparing.
- When you use appliances other than the stove or oven, you also keep your living space cooler, so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work harder.
- Prepare meals at home instead of driving to a restaurant for takeout or a sit-down meal. You save money on both food and gas.
Set Appliances and Devices on Energy Saving Mode – or Turn Them Off
- Set your laptop to sleep mode whenever you’re not using it.
- If you don’t use many features on your cell phone (e.g., you just use it for e-mail, phone calls, texts or internet searches) set its power consumption at a lower level. When I use less power, I can go two, three, even four days without charging my phone instead of doing it every night.
- Turn off power strips when you’re away from the house, and unplug appliances you don’t use constantly. Many appliances use small amounts of energy if they are still plugged in but not in use. For example, a microwave uses more power by continuously lighting its digital clock than it does during the time spent heating food.
Reduce Lighting Costs
Lighting is one of the top five consumers of electricity in a home.
- Turn off lights when you leave a room.
- Buy energy-efficient bulbs. They can cost more upfront than incandescent bulbs, but you’ll make up the cost over time because of their longer life and their electricity consumption that is a fraction of incandescents. Check your local home improvement and retail stores and your utility company for deals on energy-efficient bulbs that can bring their purchase price close to incandescents.
- Choose Light Emitting Diode (LED) light bulbs over compact fluorescents (CFL) bulbs. LED bulbs use even less energy than CFLs, and LEDs don’t contain toxic material like mercury. If you do have CFL bulbs, dispose of them at sites that accept hazardous waste.
Spend Less on Gasoline
- Use reward cards that gas stations and some retail stores offer, which shave off several cents from each gallon of gas. The more often you purchase items at that gas station or store, the greater the savings you can receive per gallon. Be sure that your purchases at these stores are items that you normally buy; otherwise, the money you save on fuel gets eaten up by the extra, unnecessary spending.
- Drive the speed limit. I gain at least 10% more miles on a tank of gas when I don’t speed.
- Car pool to work and to events your friends and family are also attending. Carpooling and ridesharing is more viable now, since more people have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. If you’re concerned about exposure to COVID-19, you can carpool with others who are vaccinated or wear masks while you ride in the same car.
Use Nature to Your Advantage
- Let daylight illuminate your living space. Natural light allows you to keep lamps turned off and increase savings. In the summer, I wait until the sun has passed over my apartment building before opening the blinds, so I can keep out the hot sun and keep my apartment cooler.
- Let nature cool your living space by leaving the windows open instead of running the AC. When the temperature starts climbing, shut the windows, keep in the cooler air and hold off as long as possible before turning on the AC.
- Let the open air serve as your dryer. Use a clothes line or drying rack instead of a clothes dryer. During the warmer months, air dry your hair after a shower instead of turning on a hairdryer.
Minimize Your Use of Hot Water
After your heating and cooling systems, the water heater is often the next biggest consumer of energy at home.
- Wash your clothes in cold water.
- Install a low-flow showerhead.
- Keep your showers short – under 10 minutes. Longer showers not only use more energy and water; they can remove moisture from your skin, too.
Live Close to Where You Work and Shop
- Shorter times for commuting and trips to the store keeps down your gasoline bills and vehicle maintenance costs.
- By living within walking distance of retail stores, you not only reduce energy costs; you can cancel your gym membership, too.
Make Energy Use a Primary Consideration in Your Purchases
- When car shopping, make high gas mileage one of your “must haves.” Fueleconomy.gov has information on the most fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Home appliances have become more energy efficient over the years, but some still use more energy than others. Compare energy consumption when shopping for any appliance. Check if the item has an EnergyStar rating, the federal government’s stamp of approval for energy efficiency.
- Before purchasing a new gadget that consumes energy, ask yourself if you really need it. By not buying it, you save both the purchase cost and the expense of powering it for months and years. If you do buy it, don’t feel pressured to buy the “top of the line” model. For example, decide that you can live with a smaller LED TV that will use significantly less energy than a huge plasma TV.
- Even if you rent, you might be able to “buy” major appliances that are energy-efficient; just check with your landlord. It worked for me when I asked our building manager to replace my broken refrigerator with a new one that consumed much less energy.
Rethink Travel and Vacations
- Take in local attractions. Look at what your city, county and state offer. You don’t necessarily have to travel across the country or the world to be entertained and educated and have memorable experiences.
- Consider staycations instead of a vacationing far away from home.
- Staying closer to home for recreation and vacations reduces your spending on fuel and servicing your car.
Want other ideas on how to cut costs? Our trusted, certified financial counselors will work with you to create a realistic budget and help you find ways to cut monthly expenses. To set up a free, confidential appointment, call 888.577.2227, or get all your support online.
Author Mike Gude is a Marketing & Communications Specialist providing support to LSS Financial Counseling.