During the summer and winter months we are provided with several suggestions for cutting our energy costs. Many of these suggestions include keeping our thermostats at 78 degrees in the summer, and 68 (or lower) in the winter in an effort to reduce our heating and cooling costs.
While simple thermostat settings can definitely save money, if you live in a place like Austin, TX, where the average summer temperature is in the upper 90s, turning your air conditioner down could be really uncomfortable.
Another option could be cutting usage in other areas so that you can afford the extra cooling costs. For example, turning down the water heater to save on gas usage, and taking cooler showers during the hotter months. You can also keep your refrigerator and freezer well-stocked, because a full refrigerator actually uses less energy than an empty one, and line-dry clothes instead of using a dryer.
If you are not able to reduce your consumption, you can also shop around for lower utility rates at sites like www.shopelectricityratestexas.com. Just like car insurance sites that let you compare rates, energy comparison sites show you the rates of your current provider and its competitors. You might discover that you could save money, without compromising your comfort, just by changing providers.
If you do opt to reduce your heating and cooling usage, here are some suggestions for making it as comfortable as possible.
If you are never home during certain times of day, there’s no reason to have your heat or AC cranking. Install a programmable thermostat and you can set it to automatically adjust the temperature to a less comfortable temperature while you’re gone, then return it to a comfortable temperature before you return.
There’s an old vaudeville joke about a man who hits himself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when he stops. I’m not suggesting that you hit yourself with a hammer, but if your indoor temperature seems too cold, or too hot, try stepping outside for a few minutes. If you stand in 95-degree heat for 10 minutes, walking in to a 78-degree house will be the equivalent of stopping the hammer.
Cover Your Windows
A lot of the heat in your house is actually caused by sunlight heating up your space. Using blackout curtains, or heavy shades, during the hottest part of the day can help reduce the heat caused by sunlight. In fact, this is one of the reasons old houses have shudders.
If darkening the room sounds depressing, consider having awnings installed over your windows, which will serve a similar purpose and still allow some light.
Use Your Oven Wisely
Anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen knows that an oven not only heats up the kitchen, but can easily raise the temperature in other rooms in your home. If living on microwave food, or eating cold foods during the hot months does not appeal, consider using a table top model that’s designed to cook without giving off as much heat.
Conversely, in the winter, consider taking up baking so you can use the residual heat from the oven to supplement the heat in your home.
Consider Individual Units
This option works well if you have a larger home with rooms you don’t use much. In the winter, consider turning the heat down in the whole house then supplementing the heat by putting a fireplace, wood stove, or space heater in the rooms you use most often. You can also use electric blankets for additional heat in the bedroom.
In the summer, turn the air conditioner off during the day, and use window units in the rooms that get the most traffic – like the living room. Then, at night, turn off the living room units and turn on the bedroom units.
That way, you are only using energy to heat or cool a few small spaces for a few hours per day.
And, of course, when the weather is temperate, open the windows. Not only will you get fresh air, but a nice breeze can actually keep your household temperature at a comfortable level.
Whether you opt for a cheaper carrier, shifting costs, or reducing your usage, there are several ways you can reduce your heating and cooling costs over the year.