Here in the Houston area, a proactive homeowner can take steps to make their air conditioner more efficient and reduce their home’s energy needs—all of which can add up to big summertime savings. In this article, we’ll review the best ways to reduce your energy use this summer.
Concentrate on cooling efficiency
Not surprisingly, your air conditioner makes up a majority of your home’s energy costs. Nationwide, 47% of year-round energy use goes to cooling or heating the home; here in hot and humid Houston, that figure is much higher during the summer. This means that anything you can do to make your home or air conditioner more energy-efficient is going to have a major, positive impact on your monthly bills.
Start by scheduling an AC tune-up with a locally trusted HVAC company. Regular maintenance not only helps your air conditioner avoid breakdowns, but also maximizes the efficiency of the system, allowing you to get the most bang-for-your-buck. Consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat as well. These “smart” thermostats allow you to pre-set the temperature, which means you can have the thermostat lower at times when you’re in the home and set higher when you’re away at work.
The major utility companies here in Houston have both peak and off-peak rates. By using your air conditioner less during peak hours (generally, 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.) when grid demand is highest, you will lower your electric bills. Our utility providers all offer programs where you can pay the average cost of your energy use over the course of the entire year. This means a more consistent bill on a month-to-month basis, and no more July “sticker shock.”
Invest in the energy-efficiency of your home
Hot summer days and high energy costs probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. If you haven’t made significant energy upgrades to your home, there’s no better time than the present to start knocking out these projects. Here are just a few upgrades that can make a big difference:
Older appliances can be a major energy hogs. Consider upgrading to new Energy Star certified appliances. Start by replacing your dishwasher, washer, and dryer—improving these three appliances alone could make your home much better at conserving energy (and water!).
Every home is different. If you’re not sure where to start, our recommendation is that you schedule a home energy audit with a certified team. This audit will identify specific areas for improvement in your home and then connect you with the resources needed to get those projects done.
Upgrade to a new HVAC system
If you’re wondering why your summer electric bills are so much higher than those of your neighbors, your air conditioner is probably the reason why. As they age, air conditioners become less efficient than newer models in two ways. First, the cumulative wear-and-tear they experience keeping you cool throughout the years means they are less efficient than they were at the time of the original install. This is another good reason to schedule an AC tune-up.
Advances in energy-efficient design and technology also mean that today’s air conditioners are far more efficient than those manufactured 10-15 years ago. A great way to compare air conditioner efficiency is by looking at the system’s SEER rating. The higher the SEER score is, the more energy-efficient that system is.
By adding just 3-12 inches of more insulation in the attic, you can reduce your energy costs by an additional 10-20%. Be sure to consult with a home energy professional about your insulation options and to get an individualized plan for your home.
Due to either poor initial installation or deterioration over time, small pinholes or fractures can form in your home’s air ducts. This allows cooled air to escape from the ducts before it even gets to the living spaces of your home. In fact, the average home’s air ducts lose more than 20% of the cooled air that travels through them.
Professional duct sealing can greatly reduce this energy waste by effectively finding and sealing air leaks. Several of the utility companies here in the Houston offer rebates for homeowners who hire a certified contractor to diagnose and repair their ducts. If you are looking to cut down on your household energy use this summer, this is a great place to start.
Don’t lose sight of the small things
It’s probably clear by now that the path to lower energy bills lies with your air conditioner, ducts, insulation, windows, and appliances. However, while this is true, there’s a lot of simple, low-cost things Houston homeowners can do to conserve energy. Here are just a few ideas:
Replace the older light bulbs in your home with CFL and LED bulbs.
Use shades, blinds, and curtains to keep sunlight out when you’re away for the day.
Leave the thermostat up by 1-2 degrees and use fans instead. Be sure to only use fans when you’re in the room; fans don’t actually cool the temperature of the air, they make us feel cool because they remove heat from our bodies.
Cook dinner outside on the grill or eat more cold-prepared meals like salads and sandwiches.
Many homes built in the 50s, 60s, and 70s here in Houston were constructed with single-pane windows. By upgrading to dual-pane windows, you can reduce your home’s energy use by 20-25%. Plus, if you’re planning on selling your home in the near future, know that dual-pane windows are one of the most-requested features from prospective homebuyers here in Southeast Texas.
Shade screens can also help reduce the sunlight and heat entering your home through windows—especially those on the sun-facing sides of your home. New shade screens can reduce your cooling costs by up to 25%.
For even more energy-saving tips and ways to reduce your energy bills this summer in Houston, check out this infographic from the team at ABC Cooling, Heating and Plumbing, a professional home energy and HVAC company in Hayward, California:
According to US Energy Information Administration, there are five major primary energy-consuming sectors in the US. Their shares of total primary energy consumption in 2017 were:
TIPS TO SAVE ENERGY AT HOME
Use Programmable thermostat – save 10% per year on heating and cooling costs
Buy an energy-efficient air conditioner
Seal ductwork – eliminate 15% of home leakage
Schedule annual heating and cooling tune-ups with a qualified technician
Energy Efficient Lighting
Use CFL and LED bulbs
70% to 85% less energy than traditional bulbs
Replace 5 of the most used light bulbs & save over $75 in energy costs
Add motion sensors to outside lights
Use shades and blinds during hot days
Use sunlight to your advantage during winter
Upgrade old windows with energy-efficient ones save over $400 annually
Double pane windows can reduce energy by 20% to 25% during hot or cold seasons
Home insulation improvements can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costa by reducing air leaks
Add more insulation in the attic: 3-12 inch can save between 10% to 20% on heating and cooling costs
Add spray foam in the basement to cover holes
Use fans in teh bathroon to suck up the heat and moisture that lingers in the air after a warm shower or bath
Set ceiling fans direction throughout the home to closckwise in winter and counter-clockwise during summer
Use natural ventilation during cool summer nights, keep windows slightly open
Electronics & Devices
Pull the plug on “vampire” electronics such as: computers, printers, routers, gaming consoles
Use power strip for electronic devices and turn it off when not in use – save up to $100/year
LED backlight LCD TV’s can save up to 50% in energy costs
Use rechargeable batteries in your alarm clock, cordless phone etc.
Replace old appliances with Energy Star ones
Refrigerators: 10% more efficinet
Waher/Dryer: 40% less water; 25% less energy
Dishwasher: 10% more efficient
If half of teh US households had energy efficient appliances, they would save 150 billion annually and reduce CO2 emissions from 2 billion cars on teh roads
Lower wtare heater temperature: for every 10 degrees lowered, save up to 5%
Consider tankless water heaters only heat the water that you use
Install low flow showerheads
Replace old toilets with high efficiency toilets
By insulating your pipes you can reduce heat loss from the hot water heater to teh plumbing fixture
A smart sprinler controller can reduce water usage by up to 40 gallons per day
Use light tile color in warm regions
Consider radiant barrier, a coating that helps reflect the heat away from the attic