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10 Ways to Reduce Your Energy Use This Summer

Tuesday Tip: 10 Ways to Reduce Your Energy Use This Summer

People were cooler in the ’80s. Literally. The last time the global monthly temperature was below average was February 1985. Which means that if you were born after that date, you have not enjoyed a cooler-than-average month in your entire life.

Clearly, climate change is an urgent—if not the most urgent—existential problem facing our planet. Here at CREDO, we know this, and that’s why we mobilize our millions of CREDO members to take action on climate justice issues, like stopping dirty energy pipelines and keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and why we support groups like 350.org, Rainforest Action Network and Earthjustice through our CREDO donations program.

Of course, we also do our part at home by conserving energy where we can to shrink our carbon footprint. To help you save energy in your home, we offer the following 10 suggestions.

Close your curtains.

Shut your curtains or blinds to keep out the heat during the day. Doing this can cut home heat gain by 45 percent, according to the Department of Energy. Curtains are not as effective as blinds but even a medium-color curtain with white plastic on the back can cut heat gain by 33 percent.

Set your AC higher.

If you use air conditioning, set it at the highest temperature you can tolerate comfortably. You’ll save 10 percent a year on your cooling bill by setting your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees higher for 8 hours each day. Also: AC will not cool a space faster if you crank it to the maximum when you get home. Dialing the thermostat down to 60 won’t get you to 70 any quicker. You’ll just waste extra energy and money.

Get a fan.

If you don’t have a ceiling fan at home, a floor fan will also do a great job of keeping you cool. If you use air conditioning, a good fan will allow you to raise your thermostat 4 degrees with no reduction in comfort, according to Energy.gov, though your personal results may vary.

Make a personal AC.

Put a bowl of ice in front of an electric fan. The fan will blow the cold air in your direction and keep you cool. This uses a lot less energy than air conditioning. And it really is a thing, we didn’t make it up! It actually does work, if only for a short while.

Close doors and vents.

Don’t waste energy cooling rooms you don’t spend time in. Close the doors to these rooms and shut the vents that supply them.

Plant trees.

If you have a house, plant more trees, shrubs and bushes around the edges. They not only provide shade, they cool the air before it penetrates your walls and windows.

Line dry your clothes.

Clotheslines are making a comeback. And summer, of course, is the best time for line drying. The sun is available and you’ll keep radiant heat from the dryer out of your home. Also: air dry your dishes if you have a dishwasher.

Wash in cold water.

A whopping 90 percent of the power consumed by your washing machine is used to heat the water for warm-water washing, according to Energy Star. Switch to the cold-water setting and you’ll save a lot of energy. But look for a cold-water detergent next time you’re shopping. They actually are formulated to work better in cold water (the claim is not just marketing).

Turn down your water heater.

Water heating accounts for 15 to 25 percent of energy consumption in the average home, says the Department of Energy. Turning down the temperature 10 degrees Fahrenheit on your hot water heater saves 3 to 5 percent on energy costs, so a drop from 140 F to 120 F saves you 6 to 10 percent.

Use solar lighting outdoors.

Outdoor solar lights have improved markedly from the dim, short-lived lights of years past. Bright LEDs have replaced conventional bulbs and better photovoltaic cells have boosted efficiency. LEDs create light without generating heat, so they run on far less energy and last longer. The lights are simple to install, virtually maintenance free and provide free light for your yard.

Plus this one: consider CREDO Energy, a new CREDO product we’ve launched in partnership with Energy Rewards to enable you to choose 100 percent renewable wind power while supporting progressive causes. Learn more at CREDO Energy and sign up to be notified when it’s coming to your state.

11 Comments on “10 Ways to Reduce Your Energy Use This Summer

  1. Excellent tips for air conditioning this summer, thank you.

  2. Practices I follow: I don’t run any hot water from the tap. I shower only in cold water during the warmer weeks (about 26 per year where I live, in Memphis, Tenn.), and throughout the year I shower only a couple of times a week. I do launder most things in cold water. I keep my thermostat at 62 degrees 24/7 in winter and 76 degrees 24/7 in summer. On that matter, you may be interested in a video you can see on YouTube by searching for “Taking the Heat, Beating the Cold.”
    …By the way, whether a particular person experiences warmer-than-average temperatures during a particular month depends, surely, on where the person lives.

  3. I believe completely that sustainable energy production is essential to reducing climate change and protecting the environment, but not at the expense of hundreds of thousands of birds. They play a necessary role in a healthy, thriving ecosystem. Clean air, without our native avion population, is a loss to humanity.

    • I completely agree. The loss of any part of our fragile ecosystem diminishes the whole and hastens it’s dying. Wind power is an excellent way to harness energy, and surely someone out there is thinking of an idea that can be a game changer in the industry.

    • Yes, a few thousand birds die each year from contact with wind farms, but it’s nothing compared to nuclear or fossil fuel power. In fact, one study found that nuclear plants killed more than 325,000 birds and fossil fuels accounted for more than 14 million bird deaths in a single year.

  4. I air dry all my laundry, year-round. In New Jersey I don’t want to dry it outside in winter, but I find that my house is very dry in winter, so I have a clothesline in the basement and a couple of drying racks. I can dry two full loads overnight, and if necessary bring the racks upstairs to dry more.

  5. Cooking in summer raises home temperature and uses energy, often during peak hours.
    Try setting up and using a SOLAR COOKER in yard or apartment deck/porch. You can custom make your own or purchase one from non-profit that donates them to communities in 3rd world countries.

    I open windows and doors at night for cooling (this is not safe for lots of folks). Just after sunrise I close up the cool apartment (doors, windows, curtains). The fans run 24/7.

    No longer can withstand cold showers, but old ‘bird baths’ (wash up at sink) work fine.

  6. I am going to start with the health safety issues and then move on to busting the energy saving bad ideas and myths.

    1) Do not allow the water temperature of the water in your water heater tank to go below 120 degrees. Some sources say the water in the storage tank should be 140 degrees minimum so that Legionella bacteria cannot survive.

    2) Do not close doors to rooms that have HVAC supply vents. There needs to be a clear path for the air to get to the return side of a forced air system. By closing doors you are starving the system for air. You are also creating pressure imbalances throughout the house. You could end up depressurizing an area of the house where there is a combustion appliance, e.g. the water heater. Depressurizing a space with a combustion appliance can cause the combustion gases (such as carbon monoxide) to enter the home rather than exit the home. This can be life threatening. Another consequence of depressurizing a space with a combustion appliance is the flame rolling out into the space rather than staying in the combustion chamber where it can safely be.

    3) Do not close vents to rooms that are connected to your forced air heating and cooling system. Doing this does not save you any energy it actually short circuits your forced air heating and cooling system potentially shortening the life of the equipment. Forced air systems are designed to move a particular amount of air. The air should be distributed to each room based on the heating and cooling load of that particular room. This is called air balancing the system. Systems are not self balancing, by closing vents off you are creating havoc with the air flow that the system is set up to move, with the way the air is supposed to move through the house (or zone) and the amount of air that is supposed to go to the various rooms to offset the heat that room is being subjected to.

    4) If you use a ceiling fan or floor fan be sure the fan is directed so that you feel the air moving over your skin. This movement causes evaporative cooling of your skin and makes you feel 3 degrees cooler, this is why you can raise the thermostat setting by 3 or 4 degrees. If you are not directly in the line of the air movement you will not feel any cooler and you will actually be adding additional heat to the room while using additional energy. Turn fans off when you leave the room. They do not provide any cooling effect to the air they only cool you when you are in their airstream.

    5) If you have an oversized air conditioner using a setback (raising the temperature on the thermostat when you are away) will save you energy, but 10 to 15 degrees is too much of a setback. Depending upon your climate you might as well turn the system off until you return home. If you are in a humid climate you will not be getting the dehumidification benefits that air conditioning provides with a setback that extreme. Your home is going to have problems recovering to decent comfort levels with a setback that large. Use 3 to 5 degrees. You can get a sense of how oversized your system is by the length of runtime when you set the thermostat temperature back to your comfort temperature. If the system stays on for less than 1/2 an hour the capacity of your system is grossly oversized.

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