How to Save Money on Household Bills While in Quarantine
These cost-cutting energy use tips are so useful—especially as we approach the summer months and our air conditioning units pull major overtime.
Let's face it: Due to stay-at-home orders, we're spending a lot more time indoors, which means many of us are driving up our electricity bills. With summer fast approaching, our home cooling systems are about to work overtime. "People are not only spending more time indoors due to the current pandemic, but we're also heading into the hotter months of the year," says Marla Mock, the vice president of operations at Aire Serv, a Neighborly company. "This means the air conditioning unit will have to work hard to cool the home to the desired temperature."
According to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), heating and cooling costs constitute nearly half of a home's total energy bill—and the numbers only go up when the outdoor temperatures rise. Fortunately, our experts say there are several things you can do at home to lower your energy use and utility bills this summer. From replacing air filters to smart thermostats, here's what advice they had to share.
Replace air filters.
The function of an air conditioning filter is to remove debris from the air before it enters the system, which is why Mock recommends cleaning or replacing it every month, especially once the weather warms up. "When things clog up, the unit will not cool as well and in fact, work much harder and use more energy—causing a substantial rise in your electric bill," she explains. "Dirt in the filter can also shorten the life of your air conditioner because dirt pulls into the inner workings of the unit, and the strain on the fan motor from the increased effort will take its toll."
Seal your ducts.
The EPA says that sealing and insulating your home's outer walls, windows, doors, and other openings can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent. Take care to seal off any cracks or gaps in your windows with a strong weatherproof tape; if necessary, install a new door sweep or two to ensure the air inside your home stays nice and cool this summer.
Turn on your ceiling fans.
If you're lucky enough to have a ceiling fan at home, Mock says turning it on can save you loads of money. "Ceiling fans create a wind chill effect, allowing you to adjust your thermostat settings by four to seven degrees Fahrenheit—an up to 30% savings—and still remain comfortable," she says. Just make sure to double check that the fan is moving in a counterclockwise motion, so the air it produces blows straight down into your room.
Install energy efficient lighting.
Haven't already made the switch from incandescent to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) lighting at home? Now's the time to take action. "Lighting accounts for up to 12 percent of your energy budget, and those old school incandescent bulbs give off 90 percent of their energy as heat, taking a toll on air conditioning," Mock says. "Replace those bulbs with CFLs (which use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer) or LEDs (that use 80 percent less and last 25 times longer) for substantial savings."
Invest in smart thermostats.
A smart thermostat with wireless capabilities allows you to program and adjust your home's temperature from your smartphone, often saving you the expense of heating and cooling an empty home. "In addition to saving you up to 10 to 20 percent on heating and cooling bills annually, these high-tech thermostats can help your family reduce its environmental impact, boosting efficiency via energy usage data and relevant operational tips," Mock says.