Tips for saving energy, money during the summer

Published 6:43 pm Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lowe’s customer service associate Calvin Taylor stocks energy efficient light bulbs at the store on North Main Street Thursday. Switching to CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, which use less energy and give off less heat than incandescent light bulbs, can help reduce energy costs, especially during the summer.

With the recent arrival of the first day of summer, the days of heat and humidity have only begun in the area, which can mean increased energy costs for residents trying to keep cool.

In a typical household, about 43 percent of the utility bill goes to cooling and heating the house, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

But there are ways to save on energy while still saving money.

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Raising your thermostat is the number one energy saving measure Dominion Power recommends.

Dominion media and community relations manager Bonita Harris said the company encourages customers to keep their thermostats at 78 degrees in the summer.

She said the temperature is comfortable and not too warm, which can be a health risk.

Homeowners cut energy costs by 1 percent for each degree warmer they keep their homes in the summer, Harris said.

If 78 degrees isn’t for you, Harris said it also helps to turn up the thermostat when you leave the house, so energy isn’t being used to cool rooms when you aren’t home. This is particularly easy to do if you have a programmable thermostat in your home.

However, Harris does not advise turning off the air conditioning altogether during the day while you’re at work because when you do get home, the system has to work even harder to cool the house.

You can also close the doors and vents of the rooms that aren’t occupied to conserve energy.

If you would still like your home cooler, a ceiling fan is the way to go instead of pumping air conditioning.

“A ceiling fan uses less electricity than air conditioning,” she said.

In fact, the use of ceiling fans can save about 25 percent on energy bills, according to Dominion.

Fans can lower the room temperature by up to 10 degrees and are especially effective because they circulate air downward, Harris said.

To keep your air conditioning running efficiently, Harris said the filter needs to be changed once a month, even if the packaging didn’t require it.

In addition to monitoring cooling systems, homeowners should cut down on activities that create excess heat to reduce energy.

Harris said activities that use hot water, such as doing the dishes, should be completed during early morning or later at night when it’s not as hot outside. Doing this will reduce the amount of heat in the house, which takes some work off the air conditioning.

Harris said another simple thing people can do to reduce heat is to use cold water for dishes and even while running the garbage disposal. She said it helps the disposal stay cool, and it reduces hot water usage.

“It’s one of the small things people can do,” Harris said.

Changing to energy efficient light bulbs can also help reduce energy costs in the home. Harris said it doesn’t cost a lot to invest in compact florescent lamps, or CFL bulbs, but they have a great return.

She said CFLs use less energy, last longer and generate less heat than incandescent light bulbs.

This is something that can help reduce utility costs all year long.

And just like in the winter, saving energy in the summer means keeping the air out. To ensure as little air is getting in your home as possible, you should check the seals on windows and doors.

Harris said weather stripping and caulking are effective and affordable ways of renewing those seals.

Additionally, using blinds, shade or heat control film on windows can be a good way to keep heat out of the house.

Harris said heat control film, which can be a little pricier, is a good alternative for homeowners who don’t want blinds or shades to take away from the view or appearance of their windows.

For more energy saving tips, visit