I opened up last month's electric bill and got a shock. May's bill was higher than June's bill LAST YEAR. Last year, for those who don't remember, was also HOT. I am sure rates went up and there's not much I can do about that but there are a few ways we make our home more efficient. We go into "Cool Mode." That's what I call it in my head. Brian calls it something else with a reference to a past dictator. It's entirely uncalled for since I have noticed that his forehead vein pops when the kids leave the garage door open and the hot air is rushing in.
Here are a few things we do around the house to keep our bill lower and the house cooler. Some days it gets so hot outside that the air conditioner can't keep up. It runs non stop but the house creeps up in temperature.
For those who want to know, we set our thermostat at 73 degrees. Brian would like it cooler and so would I but 73 is my compromise to our electric bill and the AC I am sure will quit either this summer or next.
Here are a few things we do at our house. I don't claim to be an expert so don't take these as gospel. They just work for us.
Tip #1 Close off all rooms not in use. Our house isn't huge but we do have a spare bedroom that isn't used on a daily basis. We close off the vent to that room. I also take the precaution of putting a vent cover on the actual vent. It's not pretty. . . the vent cover is a piece of magnet. It doesn't stick very well on the side of a wall. . . it slips. . . .so I add magnets around the edges to help. The nice thing is that we can take it off if we have a guest. Taping off the vent works, too, but it isn't as pretty!
Magnetic vent cover. These come in a four pack for about five bucks. They're great for floor vents but need some additional "help" when the vent is on the wall.
Tip #3 Use dehumidifiers. This was probably one of the single things we did that dramatically helped keep the house cooler and the AC not working as hard. We purchased a dehumidifier and put it right next to the furnace in the basement. It actually worked so well that I picked up another when I saw it at a garage sale last year and put it down there, too. They have to be emptied every day - we have a lot of humidity in Kansas- but there is a very noticeable difference. I would suggest purchasing the biggest one you can afford. I pour the collected water over my outdoor plants every night and once every other week collect the water for my houseplants. They thrive on this water, for some reason! Turn off the dehumidifiers when you don't have to empty them as often. Ours are turned off for the season when I am only emptying them once a week. Wash the collection container with bleach water to stop algae growth and wipe down every part of the dehumidifier you can get to with the bleach water. Let it dry completely before putting the collection container back in and storing it for the winter.
My beloved dehumidifier. It's been repaired several times with Mighty Putty and it's still glugging along!
Tip #5 Don't use the dry cycle on your dishwasher. My fancy and smarmy new dishwasher doesn't have the option to turn off the dry cycle. I do have the dishwasher wash the dishes in super hot water - the "sanitary cycle" (stupid name) but I don't have it do the drying. Since the drying isn't the "sanitary" part of the cycle (at least on my washer) I set a timer when I push start. When the dry cycle turns on, I turn off the dishwasher and open it up. I do all this around nine pm so that it's air drying all night. The kids get to unload it in the morning, lucky them!
Clean dishes. Really.
Tip #6 Keep your blinds and drapes closed. I hate this one. I really, really hate this one. I love the sunlight and I love it when my house is bright and sunny. Unfortunately, during the summer months, we try to keep it dark. Dark and cool.
I have a window in my kitchen that faces the southwest and the sun just shines straight in it all afternoon. I ended up buying an hideously expensive window film to put over it ($50 to cover my window). That helps a LOT! I chose this film because it's not a sticky film (for the most part). You use windex to help position it and then squeegee out the bubbles. It should come off quite easily if I ever need to do that.
This was from Home Depot and is discontinued. . . you can do a search online and still find it, though. It's called Energy Film.
Tip #7 Close your basement door. Warm air rises and cool air sinks so it would seem to make sense to keep the basement door open so that you can benefit from the cool basement air. Not so. Think about it. Warm air is rising and the cool air conditioned air is sinking, sinking, right into your basement. You want to keep that on the main floor since the basement is naturally cooler, anyway. Close that door! And, on the other end of it, open it up during the winter unless you need to trap the warm air in your basement.
Tip #8 Don't use your oven. If you have to, use it at night when the sun has gone down. The air conditioner works better and more efficiently if the air around it is cooler. When the sun is shining on it, it works harder. Wait until the evening and you have a better chance of the air conditioner being able to cool the house back down. So, what to do? You have to eat, right? At our house, we do a lot of grilling and we eat later. During the school year, dinner is 5pm, sharp. This allows time for homework, for playing and for everyone to get where they need to go. During the summertime we eat between 6pm and 7:30pm. This is the time that the back patio tends to show some shade (essential if you are the poor cook hanging over the grill). I also do a lot of cold meals during the summer. We eat a lot of salads. . . pasta salads, lettuce salads, tomato salads, chicken salads, etc. I cook enough for several meals and put it into the refrigerator to be used as needed. I also cook pasta and any stove top items at night and put them in a zip lock bag while still warm with a squirt of olive oil. (Reheat pasta IN the zip lock bag in the microwave. . . it takes less time and doesn't taste like reheated pasta. Add 1/4 cup of water to the bag if it looks a bit dry.) The crock pot gets a work out in the summer months, too. I use it at night and cook enough for a week. Last night the crock pot was cooking black beans. Tonight it will cook some baby potatoes to be used in potato salad later this week. Tomorrow it will work on some chicken breast I don't feel like putting on the grill.
Them there's a lot of beans!
Yeah, that's my lever thingie. I couldn't get a good photo nor one that was in focus. It was a tad dark there!
This is an air deflector. Buy them at WalMart or Home Depot for less than $3 apiece. Note to self: Vacuum baseboards.
I stopped at ten tips in hopes that this posting didn't come off as pompous and preaching. I wanted to share a few tips that work for our family to keep the cooling bills as low as possible while we are still comfortable. Saving money is always a great idea and sharing tips on how to do it is just the right thing to do! If you have any, leave a comment. We would all like to benefit!