Now that long hot summer is over, it’s time to reset the thermostat. While there are still plenty of warm days ahead–one of the great things about living in Austin–we hopefully won’t be breaking any heat records. Cooler weather means resetting the thermostat, which saves both energy and money.
According to the Earth Day Network, half of most household’s energy costs go towards heating and cooling. “The good news is that means you have lots of room for improvement, and even small changes make dramatic improvements in household fuel efficiency.” Some of the small things are cleaning vents and replacing air filters, which can save as much as ten percent of heating and cooling energy.
Setting the thermostat just two degrees higher can significantly reduce cooling bills and save energy. Buying a programmable thermostat is also a good idea. Austin Energy even has a Power Partners program, which provides a free programmable thermostat along with installation. The participants in the program agree to coordinate cycling of their air conditioner. For example, the AC would be cycled off between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. when demand for electricity is highest. Cycling helps keep the demand for electricity level, which saves the city and the individual money.
Another surprising drain on household energy is the refrigerator, particularly if it is an older model. Austin Energy offers cash incentives for turning in old refrigerators, as much as $50, and they will properly dispose of the old one. On average, the refrigerator uses 10 to 15 percent of a household’s electricity each month, even more if there is one in the garage as well. Setting the thermostat lower, cleaning the coils and making sure the refrigerator is not placed in a warm area can all help to reduce the amount of energy it uses.
The refrigerator is not the only household appliance that can help reduce energy expenses. Turning the setting down on hot water heaters and insulating the pipes can make a substantial difference in the energy used. Try running the dishwasher and clothes washer with full loads only. Using cooler water settings when possible and letting some things air-dry are also little acts with big returns.
A household energy audit is not a bad idea either. Austin Energy has qualified professionals, but a quick perusal of the web shows that there are many companies out there providing this service. The couple hundred dollars spent on the audit is very likely to be made back with the suggested home energy improvements. Austin Energy even offers free improvements to low-income customers with services like attic insulation, duct repair, caulking and solar screens. These are things that an intrepid homeowner could do on his or her own, as well. Remember, little things can make a big difference.