As summer winds down, so does the sweltering heat that permeates the Ozarks Mountains. And, as the temperature decreases, so does our dependence on the ol’ air conditioner. Aside from getting the young ‘ens back in school and seeing the vibrant color transition of the leaves, not having to use the air conditioner is one of our favorite things about the autumn. That’s because running the air conditioner is by far the costliest item on our electric bills, and it is not needed during the cooler months.
But even though the absence of AC usage reduces our electric bill, many of us are shocked to learn how much electricity is used to power many other appliances such as the refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, washer, dryer, etc.
According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the average household spends about $2,000 energy bills every year. However, with an energy-saving mindset, average Americans can save hundreds of dollars a year in energy expenses.
“Think of time and money spent towards energy efficiency as an investment,” Director of Counseling for Credit Counseling of Arkansas (CCOA) Joel Doelger said. “It may cost money in the short-term to insulate your home or replace an aging appliance with one that has the Energy Star label, but you will notice the significant savings on your upcoming electricity bills.”
Because most electric bills don’t provide an itemized list of what portion of the total went to power what appliance, it is wise to review each electrical item in your home. This will help ensure that they are operating as efficiently as possible. Here are just a few examples of ways to stay as efficient as possible.
Insulate your attic.
This can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to insulate your home. The amount of insulation used in an attic depends on which part of the home it covers, and upon which climate the home is in.
Seal your air ducts.
Ducts distribute air all over your house. About 20 percent of the air that moves through the average duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts. Start by sealing air leaks using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Duct tape, unfortunately, is not long-lasting as a sealant. Also, make sure that the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls and ceiling. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.
Is your refrigerator running? Position your refrigerator away from a heat source such as an oven, a dishwasher, or direct sunlight from a window. Keep your refrigerator between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Efficient Household Chores
Run your dishwasher with a full load. Most of the energy used by a dishwasher goes to heat water. Since you can’t decrease the amount of water used per cycle, fill your dishwasher to get the most from the energy used to run it. Avoid using the heat-dry, rinse-hold and pre-rinse features. Instead use your dishwasher’s air-dry option.
Using fluorescent instead of incandescent bulbs is a good money-saving practice throughout the year. Though they are more expensive to purchase, they more than pay for themselves: Using only 25-35 percent of the energy of incandescent bulbs, and lasting 10 times longer.
These are just a few of the energy savings suggestions that are worth putting into practice.
Keep in mind that for big projects such as attic insulation or installing a new air conditioner, you will want the advice and assistance of a professional. But – however big or small an energy conservation measure may seem – remember that you’ll be doing your part to save energy while saving money.
Mary Catherine Harcourt is Credit Counseling of Arkansas' Director of Financial Systems.