5 Tips for Dodging Higher Energy Bills This Summer

many plugs plugged into...
ShutterstockAll of the gadgets you leave plugged in during the day, called the "phantom load," are increasing your utility bills.
By Kate Rogers

After a brutal winter, most Americans are embracing the warm weather. But summer heat brings higher electricity bills thanks to increased regulation on the coal industry. According to reports, tighter regulation on coal, which powers about 40 percent of the nation's energy, will cause electricity prices to increase by about 4 percent this year. This is the highest increase since 2008.

And over the next several years, energy prices are expected to increase by about 13 percent come 2020. Last year, the average summer electricity bill was about $395, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Here are a few simple tips to help shave down costs ahead of the summer season:

1. Manage your Consumption: Making small changes to your living habits can bring significant savings to your cooling costs. Programming your thermostat to a higher temperature when not at home can help reduce your bills along with keeping shades down to let in less sun heat. Another option is turning to gadgets like the Nest thermostat to manage temperatures in the home. Nest is a

"Sealing your home will help you see a drastic reduction on your electric bill."

smart thermostat that allows users to zone their homes and control temperatures via their phone. Nest also learns what temperatures owners prefer.

"If you already have a programmable thermostat, you don't necessarily need to update to a Nest," says Julia Scott, founder of BargainBabe.com. "But turning down your thermostat in small increments can help you to save on your electricity bill."

Nest retails for about $250, and the company's website claims it can cut down electricity bills by about 20 percent.

2. Use Energy-Smart Appliances: If you are in the market for a new air conditioner or refrigerator, consider buying an energy-smart model. They use less power and may be tax credit eligible. Check out Energystar.gov for more information on energy-efficient appliance and possible tax breaks.

"It's a no-brainer," Scott says. "Also, consider dusting the bottom of your refrigerator coils to help them run more efficiently. If it's covered in dust, it has to work harder to release that heat."

3. Clean Out Air Conditioner Filters: Experts recommend cleaning out air conditioner filters once a month, either on your own or hire a professional. "If they are covered in fuzz and dust, they can't cool the air as much," Scott says.

4: Look for Leaks and Cracks in Home: Make sure your house is properly sealed in order to keep the cool air that you are paying for in. You can do this yourself by walking through your home and finding cracks and leaks in windows and baseboards, or you can pay a professional to come in and indentify any leaks. Fill any holes with rubber or caulk, available at your hardware store, Scott recommends.

"Do anything you can to fill these leaks and cracks. There's a huge debate out there [on the topic of green homes] of whether you should install solar panels, or just make your home an airtight box. Sealing your home will help you see a drastic reduction on your electric bill."

5. Use Power Strips: All of the gadgets you leave plugged in during the day, called the "phantom load," are increasing your utility bills, Scott says. She suggests using a power strip with about five to six different plugs and connecting gadgets in one strip. This way, you can either turn the entire strip off when you leave the house for the day, or find a "smart" model that only turns on when you want it to.

"It's great because we all forget to turn off our appliances," she says.

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If your going to buy a "Portable air conditioner" you should know...........
They send much of the room air out the window duct.
1. Some of that is the air you are paying electric to cool off.
2. All this air being vented out makes a "Negative air balance" in the room and nature abhors a vauum. It will be filled by any air gaps to the outside and other rooms without AC.

For instance.... In the past I've compromised for my cats wandering ways by hanging a quilt in the doorway between my AC parlor and neighboring uncooled dining room instead of closing the door. Of course I lost some AC effect but it was not too bad.
I bought a portable this year and assumed the BTU equivilence of the two would be the same but.......
Right off I noticed the quilt was flying like a flag with the air from the warmer dining room being sucked in. I had to weight it down but........ I noticed that even weighted down. this effect made the portable less effective at cooling/dehumidifying the room. Being newer the portable had a lower wattage so I had high hopes of savings. Not gonna happen.

May 31 2014 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I primarily use the free night time air. I open my lower floor windows a few inches .. I have then pinned so they only open so far .. and use a pedestal fan to help pull in the outside air. Upstairs I have a fan in a window pointed out to pull the hot air out during the night. In the morning I shut everything up except the exhaust fan, shut the blinds to keep the sun out and the house is still cool when I get home from work. It's how we do it here in the country.

May 31 2014 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, I don't have A/C in my house, just a couple of fans that are only used a few days of the summer. I used to have window A/C units when I was working and needed to sleep, but now that I don't work anymore I don't use those units. In fact I gave them away. The only things plugged into a power strip are my computer, printer and in another one, my TV and satellite receiver. Energy efficient appliances are a joke! We bought all new kitchen appliances, refrigerator, range, dish washer and a new microwave. Our electric usage actually went up! What a joke on us! I use my dryer for only one or maybe two loads and then only every couple weeks. In the summer I hang all of my clothes outside and in the winter I use a drying rack for most or hang the washed clothes in my very large utility room or on hangers over the shower rack! I would love to cut my usuage more but as it is now, my TV is only on for about three hours a day and the computer about the same and yet it seems that every month my electric bill goes up, up and up!

May 31 2014 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Most A/C air filters simply fill up with dust. You can flip them over and vacuum-out the dust with your uphostery attachment. Summer is the time of year for short hair styles and light airy fashions. Save the long sleeve shirts for November. Is also a good idea to Summerize your menus with cool sandwiches and salads with ice cream for dessert.
Save the roasting and baking for November also.
A few days of every Summer are scorchers. On those days simply turn your A/C off and go somewhere like your patio pool, the beach, the lake, or the mall and movies. Make sure everyone knows how to swim.

May 31 2014 at 12:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to alfredschrader's comment

love your way of thinking!!!!!!!!

May 31 2014 at 1:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply