Protecting the Climate All Summer Long

By: Brittney Gordon

With the Memorial Day holiday already in our rearview mirror, the unofficial start to summer has begun. Summer is one of my favorite seasons, and like many people I already have visions of vacations and day trips dancing in my head. But, did you know that the average American spends almost 20 percent of her utility bill on cooling? That use of energy not only hurts your wallet, but also increases greenhouse gas emissions that harm our environment.

If you are looking to cut your energy bills this summer, you are in luck. Summer can be one of the easiest times of year to incorporate new energy-saving practices into your life. Check out these simple tips from ENERGY STAR, and use the money you save on utility bills to have a little summer fun.

· Change to More Efficient Light Bulbs. Change out standard light bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices. ENERGY STAR qualified lighting not only uses less energy, but also produces approximately 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting, so cooling bills will be reduced, too.
· Find the Best Thermostat Settings. If you have a programmable thermostat, program it to work around your family’s summer schedule—set it a few degrees higher (such as 78 degrees) when no one is home, so your cooling system isn’t cooling an empty house.
· Use Ceiling Fans Optimally. Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room make sure to turn off the fan.
· Maximize Shade. Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun’s rays from overheating the interior of your home. If you can, move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade.
· Check Air Conditioner Filters. Check your cooling system’s air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it. A good rule is to change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool—wasting energy. Also, remember to have your system serviced annually to ensure it’s running at optimum efficiency for money and energy savings.
· Plug Duct System Leaks. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Also, make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls, and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.

Brittney Gordon is a communications team member for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. Her favorite summer activities include mini trips to the beach and reading great books.

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