This month people across the country will celebrate Earth Day. It’s a time to focus on the world around us and how we can protect the health of our planet. As an energy supplier it’s something we take seriously year round. We’re always looking for ways to help our consumers lower their carbon footprint and increase efficiency.
Here are a few eye-opening facts to think about this Earth Day. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA):
- In 2017 we used 13 times more energy compared to 1950.
- Residential electricity use totaled 1.38 trillion kilowatt hours (kWh) and commercial electricity use totaled 1.35 trillion kWh in 2017.
- Annual electricity consumption for the average U.S. residence in 2017 was 10,399 kWh. That equates to 867 kWh a month.
- Cooling is the #1 use of electricity among residential consumers. It accounted for 15.4% of use in 2017.
- In 2017 10.6% of commercial electricity consumption went towards space cooling.
- Electricity use is expected to increase about 1% each year until 2050.
- Americans spend $29 billion a year to keep air conditioners running.
Most people are interested in improving energy efficiency, but it can seem impossible in a world where there are more ways to use electricity than ever before. Based on EIA data, if you only do one thing to lower energy consumption cooling should be the primary focus.
Spring is the perfect time to take steps toward improving cooling efficiency. There are a lot of things you can do to lower cooling energy use by as much as 20-50% without breaking a sweat.
Use a programmable thermostat – This is step #1 for improving AC efficiency by as much as 10%. All it takes is a few minutes to put a programmable thermostat on a schedule and then it’s on autopilot. Bonus tip: keep heat-producing appliances and devices away from the thermostat to avoid running the air conditioner more than needed.
Open and close the curtains at the right time – Curtains don’t just improve privacy. They can also reduce the need to lower the temperature by preventing solar heat gain. All you have to do is keep curtains closed when there’s direct sunlight on the windows. This is especially helpful if you have single pane windows that allow the heat to penetrate through. Are you super serious about energy efficiency? Replace standard curtains with smart blinds that can be scheduled to open and close even when you aren’t home.
Replace single paned windows – Replacing single paned windows with better insulated double pane windows can save $100-450 a year in energy use. Plus, you may get rebates for the improved energy efficiency.
Weatherize around the windows and doors – This quick, easy and cheap solution plugs up air leaks where they commonly occur – around the windows and doors. With a little weather stripping and caulk you can prevent cooled air from leaking out and realize an energy savings of up to 10-20%.
Use the oven and stovetop less – There’s a saying ‘if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.’ Warming food up hundreds of degrees in the oven and on the stovetop generates extra heat making the kitchen and surrounding areas warmer. In the winter this is welcome, but in the spring and summer it can increase the need for air conditioning. Try to stick to meals that don’t require heating and use a crock pot or toaster oven when possible.
Get your AC system serviced – It may cost a little up front, but getting your AC system serviced at least once a year can end up paying for itself. Your air conditioner will run more efficiently and regular maintenance improves the lifespan.
Clean or replace air filters regularly – When you’re spring cleaning for energy savings one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve efficiency is to clean or replace air filters at least once every two months. This will reduce air conditioner energy use by 5-15%.
Invest in a high-efficiency air conditioner – Is it time for a new AC unit? The Department of Energy estimates that a new, more efficient system can use 20-40% less energy to run. Select an Energy Star AC system for maximum efficiency.
Create a chill effect with fans – Fans require a lot less energy to run than an air conditioner and the wind chill effect they produce can make you feel cooler. It’s possible to increase the thermostat by 4°F by simply using ceiling fans to stay cool. Just don’t forget to turn fans off when you aren’t in the room or you’ll waste energy without feeling cooled off. Also, make sure the fan is set so that the blades are turning counter clockwise to push air downward.
Insulate the air ducts– Upwards of 30% of an air conditioner’s energy consumption is due to air loss out of ducts. Insulating the air ducts can dramatically reduce energy use.
Does your electric supplier provide advice and support for lowering energy consumption? If not, make the switch to Spark Energy! We’re dedicated to helping customers understand their energy use and electric bills. Check to see which energy plans are available in your area.