Before the summer temperatures — and summertime utility bills — start to make you sweat, you might want to consider making a few changes to cut your energy consumption. You can shave dollars off your monthly bills without sacrificing comfort as long as you plan and get creative. Here’s a room-by-room guide to saving money this summer — and benefiting the Earth at the same time.
In the basement: Geoff Godwin, division vice president of Emerson, the country’s largest provider of heating and cooling systems, says cleaning air-conditioning filters every month and getting your system checked by a professional once a year will ensure that it’s functioning as efficiently and inexpensively as possible. “A lot of people don’t do that — they ignore the AC system until something goes wrong,” he says, and then they end up buying a new unit instead of making minor fixes.
If you need a new air conditioner, an energy-efficient one might be eligible for a tax credit (check at www.energystar.gov). When you’re shopping around, look for a unit with a seasonal energy-efficiency ratio of 16 to 21, the highest level of efficiency. Another option is a geothermal heating and cooling system, which uses pipes running from the more stable, ambient temperatures 5 feet underground into your home, where they pump heat in or out, depending on the season.
Throughout the house: “Make sure your house is leak-free,” says Ronnie Kweller, spokeswoman for the Alliance to Save Energy, or else “nice, cold, expensive air is going out the cracks.” You might want to consider assigning this task to a professional. Through the Energy Star online directory, you can find a local auditor who will use diagnostic equipment to test your home for areas where air conditioning might escape. Your auditor will probably do what’s known as a blower door test, which lowers the air pressure in your home and reveals leaks. He or she may also take a photo of your house with a thermographic camera; the red areas of the photo will indicate where better insulation and sealing are needed.