Simple Tips To Lower Summer Energy Bills

In May, you celebrated the return of summer. In June things started to heat up, and by July, Northern Virginia is sitting smack dab in the middle of a series of heatwaves. As the mercury climbed, electrical professionals and homeowners geared up for that seasonal event – the overloaded circuit.

Indeed, it seems as if every summer homes and neighborhoods throughout the Washington DC area have at least one flirtation, if not a full out affair, with an overloaded circuit. If it’s a dramatic affair, then there’s usually a big loud boom from the nearest transformer, a victim of all those air conditioners running on top of the usual household appliances – fans, fridges, freezers, dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines. It would seem just another inevitable part of life in the South, but the truth is, you, as the individual homeowner, can take small steps to keep your house cool, keep your energy bills down, and still have your electricity survive the summer.

Steps For Lowing Electrical Usage In The Summer

Step 1: Plug all the holes.

If you live in an older home, chances are there are gaps in your house that let out cool air – or warm air in the winter – drafty window frames, external doors that are no longer square, cinder and brick houses with insufficient insulation, window air conditioning units that don’t properly fit, open vents in unused rooms. You need to figure out where the holes are and plug them. Foam and caulking can help seal problem areas. And if you have an attic, it may be as simple as rolling out an additional layer of insulation so your house has a thermal barrier.

Neat shades for your windows

Shades reduce the greenhouse heat effect in your home.

Step 2: Shade your house.

Pull down your shades during the hottest and brightest part of the day. The less light and heat your windows let in, the less the greenhouse effect, and the cooler your home will be at night when you most need a respite from the heat, not to mention rest.

Step 3: Program your air conditioner.

If your house is empty during the day, you don’t need to run the air conditioning as much. Most of the modern central HVAC systems found in Virginian homes come with computerized, programmable thermostats. Some models will allow you to enter an entire weeks worth of settings for morning, mid-day and evening. If your system is older, or if you’re using window units, take the extra minute before you head out the door to reduce the air conditioning before you leave for the day. Yes your house will be a bit stuffy when you get back home, but it’ll cool down quickly once you turn the unit back on. Your wallet will thank you, and you’ll be doing your part to keep the lights on.

Step 4: Take care of your air conditioner.

Clean out the filters on your HVAC regularly. A dirty filter lets less air through, meaning your AC has to run longer to cool your house. The longer it runs, the more power it uses, the more you pay and the more you contribute to a potential overload.

More important, get your HVAC serviced twice a year: once in the spring in time for summer, once in the fall in time for winter. Routine servicing ensures your unit has the right amount of coolant to run at peak efficiency. The service professional will also be able to tell you if you’re system could use upgrading. Older, less efficient units cost more to run and contribute to seasonal grid overloads. By having them take a look at your system in the off season, you’ll have time to plan and budget before summer’s peak, when everyone’s time and resources are more expensive.

Step 5: Unplug what you’re not using.

The radio, the DVD player, the laptop, all those modern gadgets that suck “vampire power.” If you’re not using them, turn them off. Not only do they quietly suck power, they also give off heat.

Step 6: Give the oven a break.

So, you’re using all that energy to push heat out of your home. Why would use an appliance that’s going to add huge amounts of it to the inside of your home? A stove top meal doesn’t heat the house as much, even if the cook may not feel that way. But everyone will feel the heat if you turn on the oven. Now’s the time to get out the outdoor grill or that old-fashioned slow cooker.

These simple steps can make a big difference in your home this summer. If you can get your neighbors to do the same, you may well reduce the possibility of your neighborhood suffering an outtage.

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About Sohini

Sohini Baliga is a communications consultant, content producer, and independent writer. You can find out more about her at She is also on twitter @sohinibaliga and on facebook at Sohinicom.
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