Heating and cooling costs account for nearly 50% of the home energy budget, according to research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. But just because the temperature's rising doesn't mean your electricity bill has to follow suit. A few simple eco-friendly tips will keep you comfortable, and your electricity bill bearable, says Ben Evans, vice president of government affairs and communications at the Alliance to Save Energy.
Check your insulation.
"Ensuring your home is well insulated is one of the most important things you can do," says Evans. "If your home isn't well sealed, you're paying for heating or air conditioning that's going straight outside." By spending a little money upgrading insulation, you could save a great deal in the long run.
Draw the drapes.
Sunlight means extra heat, so be sure to close the shades of windows facing the sun if you're going out. Consider honeycomb shades, which are designed to trap hot air, or buy drapes with an interlining that are specifically labeled for energy efficiency.
Add a film to windows.
Tinting uncovered windows or screen doors that face the sun can keep heat out during the warmer months. Applying a thin reflective film on glass to keep out the majority of the heat without sacrificing the view.
Clean or replace your A/C filter.
Cleaning your A/C can lower energy consumption by 5 to 15%. Be sure to also remove any dust from the evaporator coil and seal leaks around windows, says Evans. When the A/C is running, turn on a fan to help circulate air.
Raise the thermostat or turn off the A/C when you leave the house.
To make sure your home is comfortable when you return, consider installing a "smart" thermostat that automatically adjusts to weather and learns your living patterns. These gadgets automatically go into "away" mode when sensors don't pick up movement in the house. Or you can switch them off remotely via an app to conserve energy when out of town.
Switch to energy-efficient appliances.
If you're in the market for a new appliance, you should be certain to buy an Energy Star-certified model: "It will save you money quickly by using less energy," says Evans. "Replacing an appliance that's working just fine can be a big expense, but in some cases, it's worth it, like replacing a working incandescent light bulb with an LED bulb, for instance, pays off quickly."