Summer Energy Bills Too High? Try These 11 Things

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  • Conscientious use of the thermostat can make a big difference to your energy bills.
  • Keep appliances in tip-top shape and only use them for necessary tasks.
  • Upgrading to smart and energy efficient appliances can take some of the work out of optimizing your energy use.

Efficiency is the name of the game.

Electric bills are no fun any time of year, but they can easily reach outrageous levels in the heat of the summer (especially when schools are out on vacation). If your finances are feeling the pinch from keeping up with summer energy bills, you may need to start working on ways to reduce your electricity usage. Here are 11 tips for lowering your energy bills this summer.

1. Bump up the thermostat

As much as 48% of home energy use comes down to heating and cooling. Every minute your AC is running equals more dollars on your electric bill. Bumping up your thermostat a few degrees in the summer -- especially when you're out of the home -- can make a big difference to your budget.

Oh, and if you're trying to cool your home down in a hurry, don't drop your thermostat temp to arctic levels. It won't actually cool your home any faster than just dropping it a few degrees, but it will tax your AC and can lead to unnecessary cooling.

2. Use a smart thermostat

If the idea of micromanaging your thermostat all summer sounds like a bummer, check out your options for a smart thermostat. These little robots pay attention to your schedule and automatically adjust your temperature settings to be lower when you're home and hot, and higher when you're not. 

3. Service your appliances

A dirty appliance is a sad appliance -- and an inefficient one. Regularly servicing your major appliances can go a long way toward making them run better and, thus, cheaper. This can include:

  • Cleaning the refrigerator coils
  • De-linting the dryer vents
  • Changing the AC filter
  • Clearing AC ducts and vents
  • De-gunking your dishwasher filters and spray arms

4. Minimize vampire drain

Many of the devices in your home can use power even when they're not actively "on." These are often called vampire appliances. Anything you don't need to have power running to 24/7, you can unplug to cut the vampire drain. This can be especially useful if you're heading out on vacation. Alternatively, you can find "smart" power strips that help cut the drain for you.

5. Optimize your laundry

Your washer and dryer are energy hogs. But you don't have to go back to beating your shirts with a rock by the river to save money on laundry. Instead, focus on optimizing your laundry. This includes making sure you're running your washer with full loads -- just not overfull -- and, ideally, with cool or at least warm water. (Most modern washers and detergents work just fine with cold water.)

You could also invest in some wool dryer balls. Throwing these in with your damp clothes reduces drying time. Or, if you're feeling spunky and having some nice weather, consider letting your laundry line dry outside.

6. Reduce your hot water usage

Old-fashioned hot water heaters with boilers are big sources of energy waste since they keep the water hot all the time. But you can minimize how much energy this takes by keeping your hot water usage low. Take shorter showers, wash clothes with cold water, and make sure you're only running the dishwasher when it's full.

7. Insulate everywhere

Remember when your parents used to say, "Close the door, we're not trying to air condition the whole neighborhood!" Well, even if your door is closed, if your home is poorly insulated, you're still leaking AC into the neighborhood. It's a good idea to check door and window seals, add some extra insulation to the attic, and even give that doggy door a good going-over.

And don't forget about those sunny south-facing windows. You may like the light -- but your AC hates it. That's because sunlight is more than light, it's also heat. Close the blinds and consider adding blackout curtains at least during the summer.

8. Install more efficient lighting

Did you have a parent who followed you through the house shutting off lights behind you? Now it's your turn! Keep lights turned off in rooms you're not in, especially if you're still using less-efficient filament bulbs. Even better, upgrade your bulbs to LED. They're more energy efficient and, as an added bonus, they have longer lifespans, so you won't need to change your bulbs as often.

If you want to really modernize your lighting, consider smart bulbs. Yes, like other things on this list, you can get robots to optimize your lights for you.

9. Strategize your cooking

Stoves and ovens can use all kinds of energy. And worse, in the summer, they pump out a lot of heat. So cook smarter, rather than harder. For example, the microwave can heat a lot of things you may use the stove for, but it often uses less energy, especially if you have an energy efficient microwave.

If you're a big tea drinker, consider getting a kettle; electric kettles use less electricity than heating water on the stove -- and they often do it faster, too.

Similarly, if you use your oven a lot for little things, consider adding a toaster oven to your kitchen. A quality toaster oven with a convection function can not only replace your oven for most meals, but it can also replace that air fryer, too! (Air fryers are just tiny convection ovens.)

10. Upgrade to energy efficient appliances

Over the last decade or so, appliances manufacturers have been focusing on making more energy efficient devices. Everything from refrigerators to microwaves to lightbulbs now have energy efficient versions that offer the same -- or better -- performance as older models while using a lot less power to do it. 

While you won't necessarily save money by replacing perfectly functional appliances, keep an eye to energy efficiency when it's time to upgrade. If you do it right, you may even qualify for a tax break on top of saving on your electric bill.

11. Ask for an energy audit

When all is said and done, perhaps the best way to reduce your electric bill is to get advice from the experts. Your local power company will often offer free energy audits of your home. They'll send out an expert who can check everything from how well your appliances are working to which window is leaking the most AC. This can help you focus your energy (pun intended) on solving the issues specific to your home.

Reducing your electric bill is a numbers game. The more little things you can do, the bigger the savings will add up. For many folks, a little extra energy awareness can go a long way.

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