Cooling and heating your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. On average, 44 percent of your utility bill goes for heating and cooling. No matter what kind of heating and air-conditioning system you have in your house, you can save money and increase comfort with a few simple tips and proper maintenance. Remember, the best approach combines equipment maintenance with appropriate insulation, weather-proofing, and thermostat
1. Set your thermostat to 79 degrees or higher.
Feel cool and save money by setting your thermostat a few degrees warmer than normal and using fans. The higher you set your thermostat, the less it will cost to cool your home. APS & SRP recommends setting your thermostat at 79 degrees when you are home and at 85 degree when you are away. It's as easy as 1-2-3 -- for every one degree you raise your thermostat you will save approximately 2 - 3 percent on the cooling portion of your bill.
If you want the most economical operation, set it on auto. If you want a stable, more even temperature and more comfort, set it on run.
2. Check your AC filter once a month. Clean or replace it often.
Dirt is the enemy of your air conditioner. A dirty filter can cause your AC to use extra energy and drive up your electric bill. Equipping your air conditioning system with a quality air filter is the best thing you can do for the unit and will extend its life. Quality filters stay cleaner longer, which helps your system operate more efficiently, saving you money. During the summer when your AC is working hardest, it is especially important to check your filter monthly.
3. Ceiling fans will cool you off, but turn them off before leaving the room.
Using fans is a great way to save energy and remain comfortable. Ceiling fans create a "wind chill" effect that can make you feel up to five degrees cooler. Set your AC thermostat temperature 2-3 degrees higher, and use fans in occupied rooms. Turn off fans when you leave the room. Since ceiling fans do not reduce the temperature in the room, there is no benefit to running them in unoccupied rooms.
4. Don't place lamps or TV sets near your thermostat.
The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
Also, don't set your thermostat for a lower temperature than you really want, thinking that it will cool your home down faster. The AC will still run at the same speed, and the ending result could be excessive cooling resulting in wasted energy and increased cooling cost.
5. Install weather stripping around windows and doors.
A thorough job of caulking, weather stripping and insulating around doors and windows can significantly reduce your cooling bills and make your home more comfortable.
As much as 50 percent of the heat entering into your home comes in through your windows. Proper caulking and weather-stripping can help reduce the amount of heat entering your home.
If your home has a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed tight, to keep cool air from escaping through your chimney. When switching from evaporative cooling to your AC system, make sure your cooler's baffle plate is completely closed.
6. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when purchasing products and appliances.
Whether it's a computer, an air conditioner or a new home, look for the Energy Star when shopping and conserve energy, save money and improve the environment.
Energy Star products can save consumers about a third on their energy bill and bring a similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions, without sacrificing features, style or comfort.
7. Do heat producing chores in the cooler parts of the day.
Chores such as laundry, baking or vacuuming produce heat that can make the hot times of the day seem even hotter. Waiting until it cools off outside will keep your home more comfortable and help reduce the running time of your AC.
Also, hold off on doing moisture-producing chores such as cleaning dishes and mopping floors until the cooler parts of the day. Your AC works harder in a humid environment.
8. Plant trees/bushes on the west and east sides of your house, to shade your house from the sun.
Planting trees, shrubs, vines, hedges and ground cover can be a cost-effective, eye-pleasing way to lower your energy bills. Well-designed landscaping will also protect your home from the sun's heat, while blocking out noise.
One of the most effective ways to reduce cooling costs is to shade windows from the sun. Shade from trees and landscape plants can help you reduce air conditioning costs and protect your home from harsh weather. Here are a few benefits to consider:
- Shade trees can significantly reduce surrounding air temperatures and the temperature in your attic.
- Trees, shrubs and ground cover can reduce the heat reflected from the ground to your walls and windows.
- Deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter, making them ideal to block the sun in summer while allowing the sun to warm your home in the winter.
9. Turn off the light when you leave a room. You'd be surprised how much you can save.
To save on energy used to light your home, consider using more efficient light bulbs and reducing the amount of time the lights are left on.
- Replace traditional bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). CFLs use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
- Use lower wattage bulbs. Try using a 60-watt bulb where you now use a 100-watt.
- Clean light fixtures to assure light levels are maintained.
- Keep background lighting low and use task lights near workplaces.
- Turn lights off when not needed.
Lighting accounts for up to 7 percent of a home's electric bill each year. If you turn off just a few unneeded bulbs for a few hours each day, the savings add up.
10. Clean out your lint filter after every dryer load.
Not only does this simple tip improve the air quality around you, but it also improves the performance of your dryer. If you're clothes come out damp after one dryer cycle, the lint filter could be the culprit.
Another energy saving feature is the dryer's cool-down cycle, which tumbles clothes in cooler air during the last five or ten minutes of drying. This feature also reduces wrinkling.
11. Conserve energy and save money with shade screens and window coverings.
A simple and effective way of keeping the cool in and the hot out is to shade your windows and glass doors from the hot Washington sun. The benefits of deflecting the sun's heat include:
- Reduced energy consumption.
- Lower energy bills.
- Less fading of your interior furnishings.
- More consistent and comfortable inside temperature.
|Shading method or window treatment
|Annual Energy Cost*
| Awnings or overhangs
| Tinted windows
| Shade screens
| No window treatment (regular windows)
*The figures above are based on energy calculations by APS using the APS Standard Plan. Your actual energy costs may vary.
12. Give your appliances a summer vacation, too.
When leaving to go on your summer vacations to escape the heat, give some everyday home appliances a vacation too. You'll be surprised of the savings on your next bill.
- Turn off lights except those needed for security. Use timers to control security lighting.
- Turn your water heater off using the circuit breaker, or set it to the "vacation" setting if the option exists.
- If you prefer to leave your air conditioner on, set it between 85 and 90 degrees. For each degree you raise the temperature, you'll save 2 to 3 percent on the cooling portion of your electric bill.
13. Be storm-ready.
When our summer heat hits, that means the monsoon storm season can't be too far behind. The best way to stay safe and comfortable during storms and power outages is to plan ahead. Know what to do and have the proper equipment on hand.
It’s never too early to be prepared for the winds, lightning, and rain. Mother Nature operates on her own schedule, and the resulting power outages simply are a fact of life. To help you prepare for a potential power interruption - and to stay safe in the event of one, you should always be prepared.
A flashlight is always a good idea, along with a battery operated radio. Also, make sure to check the fuse box to ensure that an outage really did occur, and your lights aren’t the only ones in the neighborhood that are out. The entire family should know where the flashlights are kept before an outage occurs. Do not use candles as a source of light.
14. Consider replacing your water heater with a solar water heating system.
Up to 15 percent of your energy bill can come from heating water, but the sun can help do it for free. And when you install a solar water heater, you may be eligible for incentives from APS, SRP, or possibly a federal tax credit.
Solar water heaters can be a cost-effective way to generate hot water for your home. They can be used in any climate, and the fuel they use -- sunshine -- is completely free.