by Martha Gail Moore
We’re more than halfway through this summer, and for much of the U.S. it has not been a particularly hot one, except in the West. But even if your neck of the woods hasn’t been as hot as previous summers, you can still conserve energy and save money. Here are three simple things you can do that’ll get both these important objectives accomplished.
First, install a programmable thermostat. If you’re the DIY type, there are lots of websites that can give you step-by-step instructions. Of course, you can call your local heating and air conditioning professionals, too. They could also do an energy audit. Then you could get really precise about finding where your biggest problems are and addressing the things that are consuming the most energy. But a programmable thermostat is a very good place to start. It works by adjusting the temperature to fit your schedule. It cools your home when you’re there and keeps it from getting too hot when you’re not. Programmable thermostats can save you up to 15 percent on your energy bill.
Second, install ceiling fans. Again, this can be a DIY project if you’re experienced in electrical work. You need accurate measurements of the room, including the height, before you head to the store to purchase the fans. Sales people can help you pick the right-sized blades for the room, and determine the best mounting solution for the type of ceiling you have.
If you already have a lighting fixture where you want the fan, this will be a pretty simple job. The most important thing to understand is that the regular electrical box needs to be replaced with a fan-rated electrical box. A ceiling fan requires stronger support for the added weight and motion of the fan. Be sure the blades of the fan are 10 inches or more from the ceiling, so they can adequately circulate the air. They also need to be mounted high enough from the floor so that a 6-foot-tall person doesn’t run the risk of injuring himself either.
If ceiling fans are not an option, even box fans or fans on a stand that oscillate can make a huge difference in helping you feel cooler in your home. What we’re aiming for here is to make our bodies feel cooler by the simple movement of air over our skin, because there’s a warm layer of air that surrounds our bodies. It’s what physiologists call the “boundary layer.”
Fans moving the air across our boundary layer can make the temperature feel like it is four degrees cooler than it actually is. The way you save money with this method is by turning your thermostat up and letting the fans circulate the cool air from your central air conditioner. Each degree higher that you set your thermostat saves you from seven to 10 percent on cooling costs.
For more temperate climates, fans can be all you need with the windows open in the fall and early spring. Always choose Energy Star products, because they pay for themselves very quickly by the energy you save. Another important tip with ceiling fans is to reverse the direction of the blades during the winter. Warm air rises and cold air sinks, so having the blades clockwise for the winter pushes the air onto the ceiling and then down the sides of the walls to the floor keeping you warmer. There’s a knob on the ceiling fan where you can switch the blade direction.
Third, turn your hot water heater down. Adjusting the thermostat to 120 degrees is sufficient for showers, washing clothes, and
running the dishwasher. The Department of Energy says water heating is one of the biggest uses of energy in our homes. Of course, conserving water also fits into this course of action. The less water you use, the less water you heat.
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of things you can do, these are certainly some of the biggest steps you can take to conserve energy. The more you do to save, the smaller carbon footprint you leave on the planet, too. Have a great rest of the summer staying cool, conserving energy, and saving money!