As the summer sunshine heats up the Columbia, Maryland, area, you’ll want to seek out the ideal balance of comfort and energy efficiency for your family. After all, staying cool through the summer is a major priority, but you don’t want to waste energy or money in the process. From using ceiling fans and programming your thermostat to improving your home’s indoor air quality, discover eight alternative ways to save energy without sacrificing comfort.
Rethink Your Cooking and Cleaning Schedule
You might not think that your daily routine has much of an effect on your household energy consumption, but certain tasks can make a big impact. For instance, cooking and cleaning both produce a large amount of heat. If you take a long, hot shower, clean the house, turn on the oven, and/or cook a big meal in the middle of the day when the outdoor temperature is highest, you’ll only make your HVAC system work harder to cool down your home. You might not feel much of a difference in terms of indoor comfort, but you could see unnecessarily high energy bills.
To lower your energy consumption while still staying comfortable, try rethinking your family’s cooking and cleaning schedules. If you can get cooking and baking out of the way later in the evening or shower early in the morning, you’ll give your HVAC system a break.
Check the Water Heater
No matter when you cook or clean, you’ll have to rely on your home’s water heater to provide the hot water you need. Some homeowners never adjust their water heaters, but you can do some basic maintenance to save energy while still enjoying refreshing, warm water.
At the beginning of the summer, drain about a quarter of the water from your standard tank water heater. Doing this will help remove the debris and sediment that has accumulated in the tank, and it can also extend the lifespan of your water heater.
Next, adjust the temperature setting on your water heater. Set it to 120 degrees, which will decrease the energy you need to keep the water warm while still ensuring the water is comfortable enough for cooking and cleaning.
Turn on Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans seem pretty simple, but they can be lifesavers in the summertime. They’re designed to cool down entire rooms without using much power, making them perfect for energy-conscious homeowners. They do this by creating an artificial windchill effect that makes a room feel cooler without actually lowering the temperature. They’re so good at keeping you comfortable that you can actually raise your thermostat setting as much as 4 degrees while running ceiling fans without noticing a difference in the indoor temperature.
To maximize your ceiling fan usage in the summer, check to make sure it’s rotating in the right direction. In warm weather, fans should operate in a counterclockwise direction to create cool airflow. You can run it at a low speed anytime you’re in the room, and don’t hesitate to turn it up a notch or two as the mercury rises. Just make sure to switch off any fans when you leave the room for more than a few minutes, or you’ll waste energy moving air through an empty room.
Install New Window Treatments
If you think of window treatments more as home decor and less as tools to boost your home’s energy efficiency, you might be surprised at just how comfortable the right curtains or blinds can make you. During summer weather, light, gauzy curtains won’t do much to keep out the sun’s midday heat, but basic interior blinds can have a big impact.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that installing reflective blinds and keeping them closed on summer days can reduce heat gain as much as 45 percent. Using blinds can mean the difference between effortlessly staying cool and having to crank the air conditioner up to get comfy.
If you prefer curtains, you’ll have plenty of options, too. Opt for closed-weave draperies in medium colors with white plastic backings, and you could reduce heat gain by as much as 33 percent. Since both curtains and blinds can keep out cool air in the winter, they’re smart choices for comfort, efficiency, and style.
Schedule HVAC Maintenance
If you’ve been putting off air conditioner maintenance, pause for a moment to consider how much of an impact your cooling system has on your family’s comfort. You depend on it to run around the clock during the summer months, so the last thing you want is for your air conditioner to stop running efficiently or break down altogether.
At Griffith Energy Services, we recommend air conditioner maintenance once a year, preferably at the start of the season. In addition to checking fluid levels, testing electrical connections, and changing air filters, our technicians also look for the start of minor problems that could lead to major issues.
Not only does an HVAC tuneup help your system run more efficiently, but it also lowers the chance of an unexpected breakdown. That means you can save energy and stop worrying about a major air conditioner problem on the hottest day of the summer.
Program the Thermostat
A smart thermostat is a savvy investment for any comfort-minded homeowner. It won’t do much to help you save energy if you don’t take a few basic steps, though.
First, program your family’s schedule into the device. During the cooling season, set the thermostat to 78 degrees for the times when you’re home and awake. When you’re at work, out at a family event, or sleeping, set the thermostat to increase the temperature 10 degrees automatically. Since you’ll be either out or asleep, you won’t notice any change in your comfort level, yet you’ll save up to 10 percent on your cooling bill.
If you’ve invested in a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, use its features to your advantage. If the kids’ soccer game gets canceled or you’re heading home early from work, use your smartphone to override the schedule and turn on the air conditioner a little sooner than usual. When you’re heading out of town for a long weekend or a lengthy summer getaway, be sure to use the thermostat’s vacation mode to decrease energy consumption while you’re away.
Dehumidify Your Home
You know that high temperatures make your home feel overly hot, but did you know that humidity can also affect your comfort level? High humidity can make an already warm day feel much hotter. That’s why one of the most effective ways to improve comfort without cranking up the air conditioner is dehumidifying your house.
First, check your thermostat to make sure the relative humidity is set between 30 and 50 percent. This is considered ideal for comfort level and indoor air quality. If your air conditioner doesn’t seem to be doing enough to keep humidity at bay, our team recommends installing a whole-home dehumidifier. Much more effective than a portable room dehumidifier, a whole-home model works with your HVAC system to keep humidity at a healthy level. It also enables your air conditioner to run more efficiently, saving energy while making you feel much cooler.
Summer can mean fun days at the pool with plenty of time to play outside in the fresh air, but this season isn’t always great for healthy indoor air. After all, if you want to keep the cool air inside, you might unintentionally limit your home’s ability to ventilate naturally. This can lead to stale air and serious discomfort, even when your air conditioner is running at full blast.
To combat stale, musty air, you’ll need to increase ventilation in your home. Rather than opening the windows and letting hot air inside, we recommend investing in an energy-recovery ventilator instead. These devices flush out stale air and draw in fresh air on a continual basis. They also work seamlessly with your HVAC system to recycle thermal energy as it preconditions the incoming air. This gives your air conditioner a break while keeping you cool and improving your home’s indoor air quality at the same time.
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