Despite news of melting ice caps and dying polar bears, the first instinct for most people in the hot summer months is to crank up the air conditioning. While reducing carbon footprints may seem like an impossibly grand task, there are ridiculously easy ways to save on home energy consumption, as well as your monthly bill. Here are five ways to save energy this summer:
1. Get rid of phantom power
- Turn off lights when you leave a room. Your mother was right when she yelled, “Turn off the lights!” all the time, and little changes such as these really add up.
- Stop using the television as a radio. Modern homes are equipped with a television in almost every room, many with “vampire” connections to outlets that enable easy-on, easy off switches. Unplug those energy suckers, as well as other electronic devices when not in use.
- If you do have electronics you like to keep plugged in all the time, such as a computer or laptop, set them to sleep mode to go dark after a set time when not in use. Power strips are also useful tools because they conveniently turn off several devices at once.
2. Hunker down in your space
- Take a siesta. If you can, change your schedule to accommodate the heat. There’s a reason people in warm countries shut down stores and restaurants for several hours during the hottest part of the day.
- Shut outer doors, and keep curtains and blinds closed during the day. Setting blinds so the sun reflects away from the window will keep the room cooler. Today’s custom window treatments have many amenities, such as remote controls to meet your needs.
- If one area of your house is cooler than another, sleep there, and shut the warmer rooms off. Earlier generations, who didn’t have air conditioning at home, often slept on “sleeping porches” in the summer. While literature has romanticized Victorian mansions with these expansive porches, there is something to the idea of adapting to the temperature. Why cool a hot room for one person when there are cooler areas of the home?
- Keep your garage door shut. If your garage is not air conditioned, the open door just makes the adjacent rooms harder to cool.
3. Give the business to your grill
- Your oven is a huge energy-sucker. Using an oven with a window is an energy saver, because you can monitor the progress of your meal without opening the door.
- Have to use the oven? Make a casserole, or find items you can cook at the same temperature. Cook the dinner rolls, potato au gratin and baked chicken at the same time. Two ovens are great for Thanksgiving dinner, but can use a lot of energy.
- Use your smaller appliances. Why fire up the oven when you can use your mini-grill, slow cooker or microwave? Can you cook outside?
- Have an old fridge in the basement or garage? If you aren’t using it, get rid of it. Chances are good it doesn’t meet Energy Star requirements and may need to be updated anyway.
4. The breeze smells better, anyway
- Whether you live in an apartment or a Montana ranch, you may remember that erudite energy efficient tool your grandmother used to dry clothes — a clothesline. Nothing smells better than a line-dried towel in the summer!
- If you need to dry clothes inside, there are clever clotheslines that hang over the tub or wherever you have space.
- Make sure your dryer is running as efficiently as it can. Vent hoses stuffed with lint are not only inefficient, but a fire hazard. You should frequently check dryer vents.
- Don’t run your clothes dryer during the hottest part of the day. Run it early in the morning or late at night, and use the energy-efficient cycles. Put an easy-to-launder sheet on heavy furniture to keep off sweat in summer. It functions to keep the furniture odor-free, and keeps it cooler.
5. Use outside-the-box thinking.
- Tape tin foil (shiny side, reflecting outward) between blinds and window in rooms on the hot side of the house. The reflected heat stays outside, and your room stays cooler.
- Build a pergola or arbor in your backyard, plant quick-growing ferns and plants, and develop your own shade.
- Use smaller fans to supplement individual needs. For example, if you work at home, and other family members work outside the home, get a small fan for your office. Why cool the entire house down for one person?
- At county fairs, 4-H youth are challenged with keeping livestock cool. One enterprising young man freezes water-filled two-liter soda bottles and puts a fan behind them, directed at his showcase rabbits at the fair. Take a cue from innovative thinkers like this when thinking about creative ways to save energy at your home.
There are plenty of ways to save energy and stay cool this summer. How do you save energy at home? Tell us in the comments.