Washington, D.C. — With the official first day of summer around the corner, U.S. households are already feeling the strain of early summer heat waves and cooling costs, high gas prices, and consumer price increases due to inflation. This summer, households are expected to pay about 30% more for gasoline, 20–40% more for food staples like milk and eggs, and 5% more for electricity relative to last year. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), low-cost efficiency investments can help defray these costs for U.S. households.
Hidden inefficiencies in home central cooling equipment can add 20–30% to annual cooling costs. “To keep bills down, households should have a professional technician inspect, clean, and tune their central air conditioners or heat pumps every 2–3 years,” said Harvey Sachs, Director of the Buildings Program at ACEEE. Correcting the level of refrigerant in the system and checking the airflow over the indoor coil, for example, may improve efficiency by up to 25% for older systems. Even well-tuned systems, however, can be plagued by inefficiencies in the ductwork. Properly sealing and insulating ducts, especially those exposed in the attic, may be the greatest savings opportunity in houses without basements.
ACEEE offers their other top recommendations for saving money this summer:
1. Insulate your attic. With the hot sun beating down on your roof, a lot of heat can be absorbed into and get trapped in your attic. This hot air will leak into the rest of your house if your attic isn’t properly insulated.
2. Turn off or replace inefficient appliances and light bulbs. Inefficient appliances, incandescent light bulbs, and electronics not only use a lot of energy, but also give off excess heat. Installing compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout your house can shave $100 off an average home’s annual electricity bill.
3. Keep the heat out. Use window shades to manage heat gain during the day and airflow at night, and consider more reflective, light-colored roofing and siding products. These measures can reduce your peak cooling demand by 10-15%.
4. Increase your comfort range with fans. With fans that create breezes, you will probably be comfortable with the thermostat set at about 78°F (unless humidity is high). For each degree you are able to raise the thermostat, you will save 3–5% on air conditioning costs. Just remember that fans cool people, not rooms, so turn them off when you leave. Whole-house fans that bring in cool night-time air can "pre-cool" the house and reduce energy use during the daytime, if the daytime heat is kept out by closing the windows and shades.
ACEEE provides numerous tips for households who are looking to recover some of their energy costs. Visit www.aceee.org/consumer for more information.