Even with energy costs near record lows, when a heat wave hits this summer, you might be sweating a spike in your home utility bills.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that temperatures this summer will be well above average, and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that nearly half of our energy use goes to heating and cooling our homes. That means that reducing the amount of energy you use to cool your home can result in serious savings. Doing so, of course, will also make your home more environmentally friendly, so it’s a win for both the planet and your pocketbook.
While some methods of cutting bills — such as replacing an aging air conditioning system or installing new windows — have some serious upfront costs, others — like drawing the shades during the day or turning the thermostat up by just a few degrees — don’t cost a thing.
Plus, any renovations that you do could pay off when you go to sell your home. Last year, heating and cooling costs represented the most important environmental features for homebuyers, with 84 percent of buyers finding such features at least somewhat important, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers.
Here are 10 ways to make sure that the high temperatures aren’t putting a chill on your bank account this summer.
1. Install a programmable thermostat. These devices allow you to preset controls so that you’re not cooling an empty house or cranking the air conditioner when everyone is asleep.
2. Turn on your fans. Using a ceiling fan (or a whole house fan if you have one) can help keep air circulating, so that the temperature inside feels cooler than it actually is.
3. Get an energy audit. A home energy auditor can survey your house and tell you exactly where cool air is escaping because you’re underinsulated. Some energy providers will offer free or discounted audits to their customers.
4. Plant shade trees. Planting trees that prevent direct sunlight from entering your windows can reduce your air conditioning costs by 15 to 50 percent, according to the Department of Energy.
5. Update your HVAC system. If your HVAC system was installed before 2003, upgrading to an EnergyStar system can make a huge difference in your bills.
6. Install energy-efficient windows. New double- or triple-paned windows have gas between the panes that serves as insulation to keep heat out even as the sun comes through.
7. Draw the shades. Simply closing your window coverings during the sun’s peak hours can have a significant impact on the inside temperatures.
8. Close vents and doors in unused rooms. Don’t waste energy cooling rooms that are not regularly used.
9. Plug your leaks. Check the caulking around doors and windows to make sure it’s not letting air seep out.
10. Paint your roof white. A solar reflective white paint can reflect more than four times the amount of sunlight as a black roof, cutting energy costs by 10 percent to 40 percent, according to the White Roof Project.