Energy-Efficiency Tips to Help Consumers 'Beat the Heat' of High Summer Energy Costs, Curb Pollution
Despite seasonally higher summer electricity prices and the federal government's prediction of a slight up-tick in summer electricity costs, consumers can exercise considerable control over their home energy bills by employing energy-efficiency technologies and being smart about their energy use.
Washington D.C, May 2007 - Despite seasonally higher summer electricity prices and the federal government's prediction of a slight up-tick in summer electricity costs, consumers can exercise considerable control over their home energy bills by employing energy-efficiency technologies and being smart about their energy use, says the Alliance to Save Energy. They also will be reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, helping to protect our environment from the risks of global climate change, and contributing to electricity reliability.
"The average U.S. household spent more than $2,000 last year on home energy costs," noted Alliance President Kateri Callahan. "That's a big bite out of a family's budget, but consumers can reduce those costs by up to 30 percent - and even more in some cases - with energy efficiency. "And it's not too late to get some financial assistance from Uncle Sam," she continued. "Homeowners who make certain energy-efficiency home improvements by December 31 can cut their 2007 federal income taxes by up to $500."
The Alliance advises consumers to take these additional steps to curb their summer cooling and other energy costs:
Air conditioning .and otherwise "keeping your cool"
For central air conditioning systems, look for the ENERGY STAR, the government's symbol for energy efficiency, and purchase the system with the highest possible Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). When buying new equipment, it is important to get a quality installation. Make sure you get a contractor who can do the job right. Tax credits of up to $300 can help offset the cost of energy-efficient CAC systems.
Additional tax credits are available for insulation and sealing products and efficient windows, doors, skylights, heat pumps, and hot water heaters. Details in English and Spanish at www.ase.org/taxcredits.
Get even more tax savings by wrapping in funds for energy-efficiency home improvements when refinancing your home mortgage. Most likely the interest you pay will be tax deductible.
Cooling puts the greatest stress on your summer energy bill and the power grid. EPA's ENERGY STAR Program advises that just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort. And be sure to clean or replace filters monthly or as needed.
Use ceiling fans with the ENERGY STAR label for additional cooling and air circulation so you can raise the thermostat and cut AC costs. Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms. If the room is unoccupied, turn off the ceiling fan to save energy.
Seal your heating and cooling ducts. Sealing and insulating ducts that move air to and from a forced-air central air conditioner or heat pump can improve the efficiency of your cooling system by as much as 20 percent - or even more - according to EPA's ENERGY STAR Program.
Bigger is not always better. Poorly-sized air conditioning units can inflate your energy costs and contribute to poor indoor air quality that worsens allergies and breathing problems. Check with your contractor or local air conditioning system retailer to properly size your unit.
Let a programmable thermostat "remember for you" to automatically coordinate the indoor climate with your daily and weekend patterns to reduce cooling bills by up to 10 percent. Set it to crank the AC back up before you expect to return, so you come home to a comfortable house without wasting energy and creating pollution all day. EPA ENERGY STAR notes that proper use of pre-programmed settings on a programmable thermostat can yield yearly savings of about $150 in energy costs. Look for the ENERGY STAR on qualified models.
Install appropriate insulation for your climate, and seal air leaks to increase your comfort, make your home quieter and cleaner, reduce your cooling costs up to 20 percent - and generate a tax credit.
Go "window-shopping" at www.efficientwindows.org. Discover how high-performance ENERGY STAR windows can cut cooling costs by as much as 30 percent while increasing indoor comfort and lessening fading of home furnishings.
Cut your air conditioning load and reduce pollution by planting leafy trees around your home and installing reflective tiles on your roof.
Close blinds or shades on the south- and west-facing windows during the day, or install shading devices such as trellises or awnings to avoid heat build-up.
Additional ways to cut summer electricity bills:
Generate light, not heat with ENERGY STAR qualified lighting. According to EPA, these energy-efficient products provide bright, warm light but use at least 2/3 less energy than standard lighting, generate 70 percent less heat, and last up to 10 times longer. According to EPA, if every American home replaced five high-use light fixtures, or their bulbs, with ENERGY STAR qualified products, the yearly energy savings would be about $60 per household and about $6.5 billion for the nation at large. The avoided greenhouse gases would be equivalent to the emissions from more than 8 million cars, EPA adds!
Also look for the ENERGY STAR label to cut related energy bills for room air conditioners, major appliances, home office equipment, electronics, and more - 50 types of products in all - by up to 30 percent. Find retailers near you at www.energystar.gov.
Turn off everything not in use: lights, TVs, computers.
Use dimmers, timers, and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.
Curb costs of "standby power" by looking for the ENERGY STAR label on electronics - TVs, VCRs, CD players, DVD players, cordless telephones, and more - that continue to use less electricity in the "off" mode to keep display clocks lit and memory chips and remote controls working. ENERGY STAR products use less energy while in the "off" mode.
Activate "sleep" features on computers and office equipment that power down when the equipment is not in use for a while. Turn off equipment during long periods of non-use to cut costs and improve longevity.
Many additional tips and free resources can be found on the Alliance's consumer web site at www.ase.org/consumers; see Tips to Lower Your Energy Bills and other sections.
The Alliance to Save Energy is a coalition of prominent business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide to benefit consumers, the environment, economy, and national security.