Home energy costs really can take a bite out of your bank account, especially in the warmer months when electricity prices rise along with the temperature.
In fact, total 2008 home energy costs for U.S. households are projected to be close to $2,200 per home.
"That's a huge chunk out of the family budget," says Kateri Callahan, the president of the Alliance to Save Energy. "But consumers can reduce those costs by up to 30 percent, and even more in some cases, with simple yet effective energy-efficiency measures."
Callahan says consumers can cut home energy bills by following these steps to curb cooling and other costs:
- Just as a tuneup for your motor vehicle can improve your gasoline mileage, a yearly tuneup of your cooling and heating system can improve efficiency and comfort. Seal and insulate heating and cooling ducts.
This can improve the efficiency of your cooling system by as much as 20 percent or more. Also, be sure to clean or replace filters as needed.
- Bigger is not always better. The wrong size air conditioning units can inflate energy costs and worsen indoor air quality.
- Install appropriate home insulation and seal air leaks to increase comfort, make your home quieter and cleaner and reduce cooling costs up to 20 percent.
- For central air conditioning systems, look for the Energy Star, the government's symbol for energy efficiency, and purchase the system with the highest possible Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.
- Use ceiling fans with the Energy Star label for additional cooling and air circulation so you can cut air conditioning costs. Also, turn your ceiling fan off when no one is in the room.
- Let an Energy Star qualified programmable thermostat automatically coordinate the indoor climate with your daily and weekend patterns to reduce cooling bills by up to 10 percent. It can crank up the AC before you return, so you come home to a comfortable house without wasting energy and creating pollution all day. This can yield yearly savings of about $150.
- Cut your air conditioning load and reduce pollution by planting leafy trees around your home and installing reflective roof tiles.
Close blinds or shades on the south- and west-facing windows during the day, or install shading devices such as trellises or awnings to avoid heat build-up.
- Generate light, not heat, with Energy Star qualified lighting. These products provide bright, warm light but use at least two-thirds less energy than standard lighting, generate 70 percent less heat, and last up to 10 times longer. If you replace five high-use light fixtures or their bulbs, the yearly energy savings would be about $60.
- Turn off everything not in use: lights, TVs, computers, ceiling fans. Activate "sleep" features on computers to power down when not in use for a while. Use dimmers, timers and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.
One handy free online tool from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Star Home Advisor (www.energystar.gov/homeadvisor), recommends home improvement projects to undertake to increase energy efficiency and comfort.
Simply enter your ZIP code, the fuels used to heat and cool your home and the type of water heater you have.
Another EPA Web tool, Heat Smartly with Energy Star@home (www.energystar.gov/home) offers a room-by-room "house tour" that identifies opportunities to cut home energy bills while also helping protect the environment.
Additional tips to lower your energy bills can be found on the Alliance to Save Energy Web site at www.ase.org/consumers.
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