It’s an unfortunate side effect of the warmer summer months that when the temperature rises, so does the power bill. As more people turn to their air conditioners for relief from the sweltering heat (in some states already well over 100 degrees by the end of June), the costs of keeping the power on and the cool air flowing can go through the roof and stress out even the most carefully planned budget. In our neverending quest here at the Alliance to save you money, here are a few tips to save money when the thermometer spikes.
Set the thermostat at 78°F
78 degrees is the point of optimum performance for most central air conditioners during average summer temperatures. If you have central air conditioning, you’ll save approximately 6-7% off your cooling costs for every degree above 78 that you are able to keep the temperature. During a heat wave, 78 will cause your A/C to work harder; you might want to experiment during those times by raising the temperature in one degree increments to see how warm you can stand it. Depending on how well-insulated your house is, this number might not be comfortable — but the general rule of thumb remains that the higher you can stand the temperature in summer, the more you will save on your electric bill. Obviously if your house is shared with small children, the elderly or beloved pets, you will need to keep it cooler for their safety. However, a programmable thermostat which can keep the temperature consistent and even raise it during the night and/or for those times when you know you will be out of the house will go a long way towards conserving power. Well-placed fans and well-timed ventilation strategies (keeping windows open at night, for example, in areas where the temperature drops significantly) can also assist in this endeavor.
Unplug appliances and electronics
When not in use, it’s surprising that how much keeping these power suckers on can affect your utility bill. TVs, computers and other electronic devices draw power even when they are in standby mode or turned off but still plugged in. Plug electronics into power strips (you should do this anyway to avoid damage from power surges or in areas where the power goes out frequently and suddenly) and turn off the power switch when the items are not in use. According the power companies, this alone can save you 10-20% percent on your yearly energy bill.
Apply for a cap plan
While this won’t save energy, most power companies have manageable payment plans that you can apply for if you are truly stressed by the rising summer power costs. Often this takes the aggregate of your yearly payment and divides it by 12 so that you pay a consistent payment all year long. Usually your local county assistance office will also have some kind of income-based power assistance if the power company itself turns you down.
Alliance for Affordable Services members have many ways to save money on summer-related items and activities. For more information and to become an Alliance member today, visit the Alliance website or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M-F, 7am-5:30pm Central Time).