10 Ways to Lower Your Texas Electricity Bill in the Summer
Living in Texas, summer often equals high electricity bills. But if you follow the ideas and concepts detailed in these ten tips, you might be able to lower your usage and still stay cool.
Set Your Air Conditioner For 78 Degrees
While you do like feeling the cold air delivered by a thermostat set to 72 or 70 degrees, most industry experts recommend a setting of 78 degrees during the summer. If you're not sure about that temperature, don't make the change all at once. Slowly raise your thermostat one degree at a time once a week, and by the time you reach 78, you'll probably still feel comfortable.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
According to the Energy Star website, you can save about $180 annually by using a programmable thermostat (but only if you use the thermostat correctly). Programming temperature changes throughout the day will allow you to maximize the usage of an air conditioner to coincide with the outside conditions (night vs. day). It will also help you by automatically adjusting the temperature up when you are away at work or school (as there is no point in cooling an empty house for 8+ hours a day). If you are forgetful like me, this tool is an easy way to automate your savings!
Invest in Air Conditioner Maintenance
Proper maintenance of your air conditioning can ensure that your system will operate at its optimal efficiency level. The more efficiently it, runs the less energy/money you waste. The best time to maintain your system is in the spring, before the heavy usage of the summer. You might even get a better deal this time of year since the HVAC repair guys aren't as busy.
Taking care of small problems prevents them from becoming big, expensive ones later. This starts with changing your air filters monthly. A dirty air filter can cost you money because it blocks the air flow, causing your unit to work harder to push cool air through your home. A clean air filter will save you money on energy costs and prolong the life of your air conditioner.
With your air conditioner working overtime to cool the house down just from the heat outside, why add even more heat in the kitchen? Here are two easy cooking alternatives.
- Use a slow cooker or toaster oven instead of the oven or stove. They use less energy, and they don't pump as much heat into the kitchen.
- Try grilling outside when it's cooler in the evening.
Use Your Ceiling Fans
Fans are an efficient way to make a room comfortable without having to lower the temperature. The air circulation they provide evaporates moisture on your skin, causing you to feel cooler. The combination of fan use and prudent management of your air conditioner settings can result in overall energy savings.
Use Shades and Blinds
Cool your house by not letting in the heat! Shades and/or blinds provide a great barrier to the outside heat, and not require any electricity usage. If you currently have shades in your home keep them closed during the day, especially when the sun is beating down in the afternoon.
If you do not have shades or blinds in your home, at least try to cover the windows that get the most sun exposure. Another option is solar screens, which block out 90% of the UV rays while still allowing you to see out your windows.
Plant Shrubs and Trees
Create shade around your home by planting trees or shrubs. It is best to plant them near windows and on the sunnier side of your home. Just be sure to plant them at least one foot away from your home's wall and from any full-grown plants.
You can also save money by planting them around your air conditioning units. A shaded unit can actually improve its efficiency by as much as 10% compared to a unit in direct sun. Just be sure not to plant too close to where they can block the unit's airflow.
Seal Up Your Home
Your home could be losing electricity through air leaks in doors or windows and through bad insulation. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 30% of energy usage through proper insulation and air sealing. That could be a nice savings off your bill, especially during the hot summer months!
In order to see if your home is losing electricity, you should conduct a home energy audit. This is something you can do yourself or you can hire someone to do this for you. If you choose to do the audit yourself, then you may want to check out Do It Yourself Home Energy Assessments for information that can guide you through your own energy assessment.
Change Your Laundry Habits
This means washing clothes in cold water. It will save on the energy required to create more hot water. Another idea is to dry your clothes at night. When drying your clothes during the day, the dryer exhaust heats up the house, which in turn causes your air conditioner to run more. By operating your dryer at night, the house won't heat up as much and you save on your cooling bill.
Switch to a Lower Electric Rate
The easiest way to lower your electric bill is by switching to a lower electric rate. Since the Texas electricity market has become deregulated, many companies are able to offer competitive pricing for consumers. When you're shopping for a lower electric rate, decide if you want to power your home with a fixed- or variable-rate plan. A fixed-rate plan will enable you to lock down a low rate for a fixed term, while a month-to-month plan gives you the ability to take advantage of energy rates as they drop.