Are you looking for ways to cut down on your energy use this summer? These tips are effective ways to cut back, and most of them don't require a lot of time or effort on your part.
Close the Curtains
Close the curtains in the morning, especially on windows that face south or east. This will reduce the need for air conditioning by limiting the amount of sunlight that comes in. For an even greater cooling effect, install Energy-Star-qualified windows.
Don't Overuse the Air Conditioner
Have your air conditioning system serviced annually. Clean the filters on individual window units. Don't program your air conditioning any lower than 76 degrees. Close the doors to any unused rooms and turn the air conditioning off when nobody is home. If there is a ceiling fan in the room, turn it on to help circulate the air. Turn the air conditioning off and open the windows at night to let cool air in.
Plant trees, preferably those that lose their leaves in the fall (deciduous trees), on the south and west sides of your house. Just three trees, properly placed around your house, can help lower the temperature in your house by 3 to 6 degrees.
Turn Off the Lights
Longer summer days mean there's less need to light up the house. Turn off the lights whenever you leave a room, even if you will only be gone for a short amount of time. Switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs. CFL bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs.
Install Efficient Outdoor Lighting
Install motion sensors that automatically turn outdoor lights on when someone is outside, and turn off when the area is unoccupied. That way, you can enjoy the summer nights without having to think about turning off the lights when you go to bed!
Turning on the oven pumps up the heat in your kitchen, adding more work for your air conditioner. Cook your food on an outdoor grill as often as possible to keep the extra heat outside. If you must cook inside, try to use a microwave as much as possible. Microwaves use half the power that stoves do, and cook food in a quarter of the time.
Air Dry Your Clothes
Take advantage of warm summer days and give your dryer a break: Hang your clothes outside to dry on laundry days. If possible, do your laundry at night to avoid peak electric-use hours, and only run the washer when it is full. Use cold water in the washing machine, with cold water detergent. If you do use the dryer, be sure to clean the lint filter and make sure the exhaust vent is clean.
Water Your Lawn Wisely
The summer heat usually requires you to water your plants and lawn more often. To cut down on water evaporation, put down a layer of organic mulch around your plants. To further reduce evaporation, water your lawn and plants in the morning hours, when the temperature is cooler and the winds are lighter. Be sure to adjust your sprinklers so they water only your lawn and gardens--not the neighbor's lawn, sidewalk, and driveway! Finally, while your sprinkler is running, check the hose for any leaks or drips.
Turn Down the Water Temperature
When you go on vacation, turn your water heater down or off. Also, try lowering your water temperature to 115 degrees. This is a comfortable setting for most uses, including showering. Use a low-flow shower head, install a water-saving toilet, and fix any leaky faucets. If you have a dishwasher, check the owner's manual to see the required temperature for cleaning dishes. Some dishwashers come with a built in water heater, and you can use it to bring the water temperature up to the recommended level.
Walk or Ride Your Bike
Summertime is the perfect time to walk or ride your bike--and save on gas. If you do use the car, form a carpool to get kids to and from their summertime activities. Not only will this help the environment, it will also cut down on the amount of time you drive to and fro, giving you more time to enjoy the summer!