Friday, September 5, 2014

Green Edge: Saving Money on Electric Bills

Do you wait for it to rain again before you
fix the leaky window?
I just got a message with the August bill from an electricity provider who adds extensive advice on how to save money on air conditioning.

1. Why now? Because now is when people pay attention to saving money on A/C, because they have gotten their August electric bills.
When my children were much younger, I had the pleasure of watching a Sesame Street episode (#0344) in which Bert complains to Ernie: "The apartment is wet. The rain is coming through the window." Ernie responds: "The window is stuck. I have to go outside to fix it. But it's wet outside. Later." Then the rain stops, the sun comes out. Bert complains again: "Can you fix the window now?" And Ernie responds: "Why Bert? There is no rain coming through the window. What's to fix?"
2. Another possible reason we get the advice in September is that the electricity provider doesn't want us to blame them for the high August bill. Giving us advice shifts the burden to us.

Anyway, here is a summary of some ideas on saving electricity, focusing on A/C use, to implement now or next spring: 
  • Set the A/C Fan Switch to Auto. Choosing the “auto” setting causes the fan to shut off when the desired maximum temperature on your thermostat is reached. If the A/C cycles off 60 percent of the time, turning the fan switch to “on” will make the fan run more than 400 extra hours a month, which can cost $16 or more for a single-room A/C unit. A fan given a rest will last longer, and the system will dehumidify more efficiently if moisture is given time to drip from the cold cooling coils into a condensation pan and drain outside.
  • Set Your A/C Thermostat at 78 degrees or Higher. With each degree higher that you set your A/C temperature, you will save between 1% and 5% on your electric bill, depending on the utility company and what else you plug in. 
  • Raise the Thermostat Temperature When You Leave. If no one is home, raise the maximum   temperature to, say, 82 degrees during the day. If you normally have it at 78, you’ve saved at least 4 percent of the cooling cost during the time you were gone. Programmable thermostats make this a routine and they may be subsidized through your utility.
  • Install Ceiling Fans. Ceiling fans circulate cool air downward and can make a room feel up to 10 degrees cooler. Ceiling fans can save up to 25 percent on the energy bill if used to cool down rooms instead of lowering the A/C thermostat setting.
  • Pull Down the Blinds on Windows Getting Sun. Indoor lighting requires much less energy than extra A/C usage. Cover your windows when the sun hits them during the day. Blinds and curtains are a good investment. Our ancestors knew.
  • Use the Delay Setting on the Dishwasher.  Have the dishes washed when the sun is down and the heat that is generated doesn't add to A/C use. Use the barbeque outside instead of cooking indoors to keep the kitchen cooler.
  • Install Solar Panels. With subsidies and tax breaks, solar energy panels can pay for themselves in five years, which implies simple-interest return of 20 percent a year. Better than banks are paying! Solar panels generate the most electricity when it is most needed for A/C.
For More Tips
  • Energy-Efficient Products and Homes: the Federal EPA Energy Star website
  • Renewable Energy for the Home: A starting point for looking at solar, wind turbines, home hydropower.