Energy bills tend to be high during the summer when many people crank up their air conditioners to combat the heat. For some households, higher energy bills might be stretching their budgets, while others might be looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints.
Conserving energy can help homeowners save money and help the planet at the same time. And reducing energy consumption in the summer does not require men and women to sacrifice comfort in the name of conservation. In fact, various strategies can help homeowners and apartment dwellers reduce their summertime energy consumption.
■ Stop cooling an empty home. A cool home might be the ultimate necessity during summer heat waves, but there's no reason to cool a residence when no one is home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), operating thermostats more efficiently can help homeowners trim their cooling costs by as much as 10 percent. One way to be more efficient with thermostats is to keep the house warmer than normal when no one is home. Programmable thermostats can be set so air conditioning units turn on shortly before residents arrive home, ensuring the house is comfortable and no energy is wasted.
■ Narrow the gap between indoor and outdoor temperatures. The DOE notes that the smaller the difference between the temperature indoors and outside, the lower cooling costs will be. While it may be tempting to set thermostats to room temperature (68 degrees Fahrenheit) on days when temperatures reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above, that's an enormous temperature gap that will result in a high energy bill. Instead, the DOE recommends setting thermostats to 78 degrees Fahrenheit whenever possible.
■ Open the windows at night. Daytime temperatures, particularly during the dog days of summer, may necessitate the use of air conditioners. But men and women who live in climates where temperatures drop considerably at night can sleep with their windows open. This reduces energy consumption and saves money, and can be a great way to introduce fresh air into a home during a time of year when air can become stagnant.
■ Do not set air conditioner thermostats at lower than normal temperatures when turning them on. The DOE notes that setting thermostats at lower than normal temperatures when turning air conditioners on will not cool homes any faster than setting them at typical temperatures. Such a strategy will only lead to excessive energy consumption and higher energy bills.
■ Install ceiling fans. Ceiling fans can improve cooling efficiency in a home. According to the DOE, ceiling fans allow men and women who use air conditioners to raise the thermostats on their AC units about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without adversely affecting comfort levels. Men and women who live in temperate climates may find that ceiling fans are enough to keep rooms cool without the need for air conditioners.