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As Memorial Day weekend approaches, it feels like summer is just around the corner. Once temperatures rise, the average home spends almost 20 percent of its utility bill on cooling, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Increased energy production to run cooling systems not only raises costs, it also contributes to pollution that adversely affects the quality of the air we breathe.
Soon, you’ll be looking to beat the heat, so use these seven tips from the EPA’s Energy Star program to help you cut cooling costs, protect your health and save energy.
1. Change to more efficient light bulbs.
Change out incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices. Energy Star qualified lighting not only uses less energy but produces approximately 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting, so cooling bills will be reduced, too.
2. Find the best thermostat settings.
If you have a programmable thermostat, program it to work around your family’s summer schedule—set it a few degrees higher (such as 78 degrees) when no one is home, so your cooling system isn’t cooling an empty house.
3. Use ceiling fans optimally.
Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only 2 degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Remember, ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so save energy by turning off the fan when you leave the room.
4. Maximize shade.
Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun’s rays from overheating the interior of your home. If you can, move container trees and potted plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade.
5. Reduce oven time.
Cook with a microwave, toaster oven or grill instead of an oven when you can. Ovens take longer to cook food and can make your house warmer, often requiring your AC system to kick in to keep your house at a comfortable temperature.
6. Check air-conditioner filters.
Check your cooling system’s air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it. A good rule is to change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool—wasting energy. Also, remember to have your system serviced annually to ensure it’s running at optimum efficiency for money and energy savings.
7. Plug duct-system leaks.
As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape, and insulate all the ducts you can access, such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements and garages. Also, make sure connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.