How to Keep Summer Utility Costs in Check

The summer months can be expensive to navigate. Families incur additional costs from rising utility bills, increased daycare expenses, and vacation costs, which can strain the family budget. The cost of utilities can double from the increased use of HVAC units combating high temperatures and additional water usage to keep gardens and yards thriving.

Finding effective ways to keep costs in check can prevent you from spending unnecessarily in order to bridge the gap. Fortunately, there are simple measures to keep costs down. Here are effective ways to lower utility bills even when the temperature gauge rises.

Lowering Your HVAC Bill

Running the air conditioner can influence up to 50% of your power bill. Whether you operate on gas or electric power, there are small changes you can make that will make a big impact on your bill.

  • Inspect your HVAC unit. Before the summer gets underway, have a professional inspect and clean your unit. Routine maintenance will keep the AC running efficiently and ensure you have adequate freon to cool your home. Low coolant and clogged air vents will wear out the motor faster and make it harder to keep the home cool. Other simple tasks you can complete include, changing air filters regularly, ensuring furniture does not block vents, and removing dust and debris from the system.
  • Raise the thermostat. One of the most effective ways to lower costs is to set the thermostat at a higher temperature. Consider programming your programmable thermostat to raise the temperature while you are at work or away from home. Doing so can shave 1% off the bill for every degree you raise the temperature for 8 hours or more.On the other hand, do not turn the AC off when you leave, because this action can actually raise your power bill. When the home gets hot during your absence, it takes more energy to cool the home. The unit will run non-stop on high until the house reaches your desired comfort level instead of coming on occasionally to adjust the temperature a few degrees.
  • Use fans strategically. Turning on fans in occupied rooms can allow you to run the central AC unit at a higher temperature. Ceiling fans are particularly useful in circulating air in a room.
  • Close vents and shut doors in unoccupied rooms. The growing size of homes can leave you cooling additional square footage for rooms you do not regularly use. Closing vents in unused rooms and keeping doors closed can lower your power bill. Separate thermostats in lightly used areas are another effective way to reduce the cost of heating basements or infrequently used areas of the home.
  • Reduce Air Leaks. It is common for homes to have places where air escapes. These are often small passages that allow cold air outside and warm air into your home. Start with major areas such as door and windows. You can caulk areas with gaps or add weather stripping to prevent air loss. If you can see the light from outside through or around a door or window, air is escaping. After sealing these areas look around fixtures, attics, and even light sockets on exterior walls for air loss.Many utility companies offer free energy audits, which can identify your biggest areas of concern.
  • Turn off the lights when not in use. Lights not only use power, but they also produce heat. In addition to turning off the lights or installing motion sensors to activate lights, you can also save money by converting to low wattage bulbs. Spiral fluorescents and LED lights have a higher upfront cost, but they last longer, use less energy, and run cooler than traditional light bulbs.Another strategy to bring light into the home is open curtains and blinds to receive natural light, which can eliminate the need to keep the lights on. In the heat of the day, natural light can add heat to your home. In this case, closing blinds and curtains in unused rooms and sun-facing rooms can lower the heat levels caused by the sun's radiation.
  • Avoid using the oven and dryer. Both of these appliances add a lot of heat to your house. The dryer uses the most power of all other appliances, except for the refrigerator. To reduce dryer use, hang clothes outside, use the dryer on cooler days, or use it in the morning before work.To reduce stove usage, cook outdoors, use a toaster oven instead of the kitchen oven, or cook in the microwave.

Lowering Your Water Bill

The second bill largely impacted by warm weather is the water bill. Hot summer days increase water use by family members as well as keeping gardens and lawns fresh and growing. Here are a few simple strategies to lower the water bill during the summer months.

  • Water plants during the coolest part of the day. Whether you want a green lawn or flowers and vegetables, water in the early morning or late evening. Watering midday leads to fast evaporation, losing much of its benefits. Homes with automatic sprinklers should ensure their positioning will only water the lawn and not the driveway. There are also many systems that have settings that will prevent sprinklers from coming on during or shortly after rain.
  • Choose water-resistant plants designed to grow well in your climate. Hardy plants require less water to thrive and can reduce the need to water frequently.
  • Redirect rainwater. Capturing rainwater from drainage spouts will allow you to water your garden without running up the water bill.