Easy Ways to Save Energy -- and Money

Heating and Cooling Your Home

saving money

Linda Farwell

  • Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home, typically accounting for about 13 percent of your utility bill, so lower the thermostat on your water heater. A setting of 120 degrees F. provides comfortably hot water for most uses.

  • Install a programmable thermostat. Replacing the older, manual kind is an easy and inexpensive way to conserve energy, when used properly. Setting the thermostat to a lower temperature at night when everyone is snug in bed or during the day when kids are at school and parents are at work can save your family $150 a year or more depending on its settings.
  • Take advantage of natural lighting to regulate the temperature in your home. Keep blinds closed during the summer, especially on those windows facing the sun, but open during the winter.
  • Forget about shortcuts. Setting your air conditioner to run colder than normal when you first turn it on won't cool your home any faster. If anything, the lower setting will lead to excessive cooling and -- more chilling news -- higher bills.
  • Buy an air conditioner that's the right size for the room. An air conditioner that's too big will perform less efficiently than a smaller, more appropriately sized unit. Room units work best running steadily over a longer time instead of constantly switching on and off, which is more likely to happen if the unit is too big for the space.
  • Keep lamps and TVs away from your air conditioner's thermostat. It will sense the heat from these appliances, which could cause the AC to run longer than needed.
  • Place your AC unit on the north side of your house and/or in the shade. A unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10 percent less electricity than one in the sun.
  • Plant a tree on the sunny, or western, side of your house. The foliage will help to shade your house during summer.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the February 2008 issue of American Baby> magazine.

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