How to Conserve Energy in Summer

Tips and tools that everyone can use to be energy efficient and comfortable.

Summer seems to come earlier and get hotter these days. When faced with high temperatures, your first instinct might be to turn the A/C to the lowest setting it has. But there are more things you can do to stay comfortable without using so much electricity.

Saving energy not only helps you keep your monthly bill under control, but it can also take stress off the grid during peak hours. Here in Texas – where the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) may issue alerts asking homes and businesses to conserve during peak hours in summer – these energy-saving habits can help us all protect the integrity of the grid and make sure that every Texan can beat the heat. Not to mention, saving energy is an all-around great thing for the planet.

The first goal is to take the stress off your air conditioner.

Approximately 60% – 70% of the electricity you use in summertime is just for cooling. That’s what makes summer such a peak season for electricity use. The key to saving energy in summer is doing everything you can to help your A/C work efficiently. The less heat it has to contend with, the less it will have to work to keep things comfortable.

How to make sure your A/C will run efficiently:

  • Check your air filter. A dirty filter slows down airflow and makes your system work harder to keep you comfortable. You should change your filter at least once every two months.
  • Set your ceiling fans to run counterclockwise. Fans that run counterclockwise create a downdraft that helps with air circulation and makes it feel cooler overall.
  • Inspect your attic insulation. Any insulation that’s wet, moldy or damaged can be less effective at keeping the heat outside, resulting in more A/C usage.
  • Take a look at your ductwork. Seal any gaps, tears or other openings that let cool air escape.
  • Weatherstrip exterior doors and windows. Even the tiniest gap can let the heat in.
  • Close your blinds when it’s sunny. Also, make sure to set them pointing upwards so they direct heat toward the ceiling. Since heat naturally rises, it will stay at ceiling height and you’ll avoid discomfort.
  • Have your system serviced annually. It’s usually best to have your A/C serviced every spring before it gets too hot, but if you haven’t done it yet, there’s no time like the present.
  • Cook outdoors when you can. Using the stove or oven can raise the heat levels throughout the house. That’s why summer is perfect for grilling.

How to set your A/C for optimal energy efficiency:

Once you’re set up to take the stress off your air conditioner, it’s important to use it properly. If you have a smart thermostat installed, you can program it to learn your habits and adjust automatically. But if you’d rather adjust your thermostat manually, just remember that for every degree you set it below 78°F, you can expect about a 5% – 7% increase in your cooling costs.

How to set your A/C while you’re gone:

When you leave your home or your business, do not turn your A/C off completely. Your system will have to work much harder to cool the place down once you’re back. Instead, use the 4-by-4 rule: If you’re going to be away for more than four hours, set the thermostat 4° higher.

More ways to save energy and help the planet.

While making your air conditioner as efficient as possible will go a long way toward keeping your electricity use down, there are other energy-saving habits that can also help.

  • Turn off lights in vacant rooms, offices and workspaces. It’s a cliché for a reason.
  • Check your water heater. The ideal temperature for an energy-efficient water heater is 120°F.
  • Unplug electronics that aren’t in use. Stop vampire power from draining your wallet by putting your electronics on a power strip and unplugging them when not in use.
  • Wait to use appliances. Washing clothes and dishes in the evening can avoid putting stress on the grid during the peak hours of 2 p.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Charge your devices before bed. Instead of leaving them plugged in all night long, charge your phones, tablets and laptops in the early evening.