Peak summer electricity usage can vary significantly from other times of the year, such as March-April-May or September-October. The peak seasons of higher than average usage commonly leaves folks to wonder, “Why is my electric bill so high?” Let’s take a moment to look at the causes of the increase and ways that you can save money on electricity.
The biggest culprit for the increase in peak summer electricity usage is the air conditioner. Everyone likes to be comfortable, even when the weather turns sultry; however, there are ways to cut down on the amount of summer electricity usage due to air conditioning. First, when the family is not home during the day, adjust the thermostat setting upwards by 10 degrees from say 75 to 85 degrees for example. Better still, install a programmable thermostat to turn the temperature up when people are not home and set it to turn the air conditioner back down or on one half hour before anyone gets home. This way, the air conditioner is not cooling the home when no one is in it. This is especially important if you are going away for the weekend, or leaving on vacation for an extended period of time. When you are at home, try keeping the thermostat set at 78 degrees and use fans whenever possible. Every 3 degrees that you can turn the temperature up during the summer can save 10-15% on your cooling costs. 78 degrees is often cool enough to keep everyone comfortable without feeling chilly and using any extra electricity. The home will also stay cooler if blinds or curtains are closed when no one is at home (and when you are home, it still helps to close them when the sun is shining directly in those windows during the hottest part of the day). If 78 degrees is too warm at night, then turn the thermostat down a few degrees to cool them home while sleeping. Nighttime is typically cooler than day time and the air conditioner will not struggle to cool the home at night as compared to in the day time. Installing ceiling fans can be another economical way to increase the comfort in the home, as the movement of air creates a cooling affect without having to run the air conditioner at a lower temperature.
The second item that most people forget about that runs no matter if someone is at home or not is the electric water heater. Adjusting the setting on the water heater to a lower temperature helps you save money on your electric bill. The recommended water temperature is typically 120 degrees. Think about it, as a hot tub is 103 degrees and it is plenty hot for most people. For every ten degrees that you turn it down, you can save extra money! However, when adjusting the water heater’s temperature setting, it is important to only turn it down one or two degrees at a time to prevent it from going into an “emergency electric draw.” Turn it down slowly, let it adjust to that temperature, then turn it down a bit more.
Refrigerators and other appliances are the third larges consumer of electricity in a home. Older refrigerators that are insulated poorly can also become an energy hog when it comes to summer electricity usage. To reduce this usage, make sure the refrigerator is set at the optimal temperature. If you keep an extra refrigerator in the garage, be aware that this uses a lot of electricity because garages typically are very warm and therefore it takes a lot more electricity to keep that refrigerator cool. If you really want to cut costs, eliminate the refrigerator in the garage.
In addition to these steps, you can also cut down on summer electricity usage by planning activities that heat up the house—like cooking—for times when it is cooler outside. Cook meals ahead of time early in the morning or at night after the sun has set to avoid making the air conditioner work even harder than it already does. On cool days, cook meals that can be saved and eaten on hot days without having to use the oven.
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