The following is by Jayne McBurney, a family and consumer educator with the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Service. For more information, call her at 919-989-5380.
A long winter and short spring remind us that summer temperatures will be here soon. Cooling your home in the summer can require more than half of your energy budget. So just how do you reduce your energy demands this summer? Simple solutions such as these can lower your energy bill:
• Use the air conditioner only when necessary. If the breeze outside is pleasant, open a window.
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• Use ceiling fans and other cooling fans to circulate air, but turn fans off when no one is in the room.
• Educate family members about energy conservation – keep doors and windows shut while the air conditioner is running.
• Schedule regular check-ups and maintenance for your heating and cooling units by a qualified heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technician.
• Clean or replace unit filters every month.
• Keep air registers open, clean and free of furniture, carpeting or drapes.
• Use a programmable thermostat. In the summer, set your thermostat to 78 degrees or your highest comfortable setting. For each degree you raise your thermostat, you can reduce your cooling costs by as much as 3-5 percent.
• Use kitchen and bathroom ventilation fans wisely – use them for short periods to circulate air as necessary. Running them for extended periods uses energy unnecessarily and allows cool air to escape outside.
• Use shade trees and other landscape features, awnings and window coverings to keep the sun from overheating your home.
Leaks around windows and doors mean that cool air is getting out. Some leaks will be apparent to homeowners, but frequently, larger leaks in the attic and basement lose more cool air than the obvious ones. Homeowners can often find large gaps around pipes, light fixtures, chimneys and soffits. Some sealing projects are appropriate for do-it-yourselfers, while others might require the assistance of a professional.
Reducing your energy needs benefits you, the consumer, and the larger community. Keeping your cooling bill in check leaves more money to meet other obligations.