Rising summer temperatures often result in higher energy costs. The US Energy Information Administration estimates that the average home in the United States consumes 1,026 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each month between June and August. Air conditioners, pool pumps and ceiling fans all contribute to high energy costs, as do energy-inefficient windows, air leaks and heat produced by incandescent lamps.
Understanding how to save energy in the summer could lower your home’s utility bill while allowing you to enjoy the weather both inside and outside your home. Fortunately, summer energy conservation is easy. All you need are some simple changes inside of your home and to your daily habits. Below is a room-by-room guide to help you stay cool and save energy.
Your room-by-room guide to saving energy in the summer
Saving energy in the summer is often as simple as examining your energy use in different rooms of your home and making small lifestyle changes. Such changes are easy to implement and cost little to no money to put into practice.
Summer energy-saving tips for your kitchen
Your kitchen is, understandably, one of the biggest heat producers in your home: you can’t use your oven or dishwasher without transforming energy into heat. The following energy-saving tips for kitchens will help keep your home cooler and more comfortable in summer by reducing energy used when cooking and washing.
- Don’t keep the oven on for too long. Using your oven can quickly increase the temperature in your kitchen, especially if whatever you’re cooking means you have to repeatedly open the oven door. To reduce kitchen heat, consider eating meals that can be prepared without the oven. Slow cookers use a fraction of the electricity needed by the oven, and they produce less heat. Toaster ovens can be used to cook smaller meals, and barbecuing outside helps you get the most out of the warm weather while keeping your home cooler. If you need to use the oven, don’t wait for the oven to preheat — just adjust cooking times accordingly.
- Use your microwave to heat up your food. When it comes to energy consumption and heat production, using the microwave to heat food is a cost-effective alternative to the oven.
- Air-dry your dishes in the dishwasher. Dishwashers produce significant amounts of heat during their drying cycles, as well as humidity in the form of steam. During the summer, turn off your dishwasher’s drying feature and let the dishes air-dry. You’ll reduce dishwasher energy use and keep your kitchen cooler on hot days.
Summer energy-saving tips for your bathroom
Your bathroom is another source of heat and humidity, especially if you’re a fan of long hot showers. Here are three summer energy conservation tips to help prevent bathroom heat from increasing your home’s temperature.
- Take cool showers. Hot showers aren’t always your best choice during the summer, especially if you want to cool down. Instead, switch to cool showers. You will not only feel cooler after showering but also save on the energy needed to heat the water. Cooler showers also produce less steam, which means less humidity.
- Avoid using hot air when drying your hair. Despite their small size, blow-dryers produce plenty of heat. Letting your hair air-dry in the summer avoids blow-dryer heat and leaves your scalp feeling cooler as water evaporates. If using your blow-dryer is unavoidable, use the cool-air setting.
- Use your bathroom fan when showering. A hot shower produces heat, steam and humidity. Although that combination often feels great when you’re showering, it can drive up the room’s temperature. Running your bathroom fan while showering pulls heat and steam out of the room. If you don’t have a bathroom fan, open a window or leave the door ajar to create a current of cooler air.
Summer energy conservation tips for your laundry room
Washers and dryers both consume significant amounts of energy, and they give off some of that energy as heat. Here’s how to save energy in the summer in your laundry room.
- Ditch the dryer and use a clothesline. Dryers need to produce a lot of heat to dry clothes. This heat can become a problem during the summer. If possible, use a clothesline and let the sun do the drying for you. If that’s not possible, clothing racks are a cheap alternative.
- Use cold water to wash your clothes. While washing machines have hot settings, cool- and cold-water settings are just as efficient at washing clothes. Set your washing machine to cold during the summer and save on energy. Using cold water also reduces the amount of heat the washer emits, and it can protect your clothing from excess wear and tear.
How to save energy in the summer with energy-efficient window treatments
Air leaks and cracks around window frames allow cool air to escape from the home, as well as hot outdoor air to come inside. Repairing leaks, coupled with energy-efficient window treatments, can help maintain a constant, cool interior temperature when the summer heats up. Here are a few window-based energy-saving tips for summer.
1. Install white window shades.
According to Energy.gov, approximately 76 percent of sunlight that reaches standard double-pane windows enters the home as heat. White window shades, drapes and blinds reflect sunlight back outside, keeping the house cool. Energy.gov estimates a medium-colored drape with a white plastic backing can reduce a room’s heat gains by 33 percent.
Of course, drapes and other window treatments only reduce heat gain if they’re used, and 75 percent of households don’t adjust window treatment positions during the day. Set yourself a couple of reminders, and close the drapes against the heat of the day.
To offer the most protection against heat gain, window treatments should be installed as close to the glass as possible. Choose shades that are white on the outside with a darker, heat-absorbing color on the inside for the most heat protection.
Shades are not your only option for heat-reflecting window treatments. Quilted roller shades and Roman shades also reduce heat. Such treatments act as an insulating barrier, while their thicker construction makes them better at controlling air infiltration than thinner window treatments.
2. Close blinds, curtains and shutters on south- and west-facing windows.
Unlike shades, interior blinds can be adjusted to control light and ventilation. This makes blinds especially useful for summer energy conservation, as you can adjust them in response to outdoor conditions. External shutters are even better, as they prevent heat from reaching the windows in the first place.
During the summer, close all blinds, curtains and shutters on south- and west-facing windows. These directions receive the greatest amount of sunlight in the summer months—if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, that is. If your home is south of the equator, close window treatments and shutters on north- and east-facing windows to combat the heat.
3. Install window awnings over your windows to keep out the sun.
Window awnings extend over and above windows to provide shade and sun protection. In addition to reducing solar heat gain through windows, awnings can also provide shade for patios and other outdoor spaces.
Energy.gov reports that properly installed window awnings can reduce solar heat gain by up to 65% on south-facing windows in the Northern Hemisphere. Awnings over west-facing windows provide even more protection, blocking up to 77 percent of heat gain.
Awnings have traditionally been made from metal or canvas, but modern awnings take advantage of water- and mildew-resistant synthetic materials that also resist fading. Choose awnings made of opaque, tightly woven and light-colored materials for the best sun protection.
4. Apply sun control or other reflective films to your windows.
Window films can also save energy in the summer. A window film has three layers: an adhesive layer to attach to the glass, a polyester film and a scratch-resistant coating.
Window films can be installed directly over existing windows and are available in a range of tints, UV blockers and colors. Silver, mirror-like films are generally best suited for reflecting sunlight, and provide the most effective energy conservation advantages.
Be aware that window films come with some limitations and disadvantages, including:
- Loss of interior light
- Impaired window visibility
- Specific cleaning requirements
- Unsightly reflections when viewed from outside
5. Use mesh window screens.
Mesh windows have traditionally been used to keep insects and dust outside the home while allowing air to flow through open doors and windows. What’s more, mesh screens also offer some heat protection. Screens can block some solar radiation as they break up sunlight. To be most effective, mesh screens should be mounted on the window’s exterior frame and cover the entire window. Windows on the west-facing sides of the home see the most benefit from mesh screens.
Summer energy-saving tips for around your entire home
In addition to the tips above, there are ways to save energy and control heat throughout your entire house. Try these summer tips, and see whether your home is cooler.
- Turn on your ceiling fans when using your air conditioning. Understanding how to use your ceiling fans with your air conditioner helps keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Although fans don’t cool the air, they do circulate it, moving air-conditioned air throughout the home more effectively. This helps cool the home faster so your HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard to reach the desired temperature.
- Turn up the thermostat to 78 degrees when you’re not home. Turning up the thermostat a few degrees when you’re not at home saves energy by reducing the cooling demands on your air conditioner or HVAC system. Smart thermostats can be set to your daily schedule, turning on cooling systems just before you come home.
- Open your windows at night. Sometimes simple strategies are the best. In areas where the days are hot but the nights are cool, opening windows at night saves on cooling costs and improves air circulation.
- Take care of your air conditioner. An air conditioner that isn’t working properly struggles to maintain a comfortable temperature and consumes more energy. Proactively maintaining your air conditioner is crucial if you want it to perform at peak efficiency.
- Insulate and seal air leaks. Air leaks around windows and doors offer a means for hot outside air to enter your home (and for cool air to escape). Periodically check window and door frames for holes and cracks. Sealing leaks is a cost-efficient way to control heat during the summer.
- Turn off electronic devices and appliances when not in use. Any device or appliance that requires electricity to work generates heat, even when it’s not in actual use. Using smart plugs to control when power is delivered to devices can make cooling your home easier.
Energy-Saving Upgrades for Cooler Summers
Although many summer energy-saving tips are inexpensive, the following strategies require some financial investment. Over time, however, these solutions can also offer significant energy savings.
- Insulate your attic. The purpose of attic insulation is usually assumed to be about keeping homes warm during the winter. This is true, but when installed correctly, attic insulation can also keep heat out, depending on the climate in which you live and whether you choose to install radiant barriers.
- Switch to an energy-efficient air conditioner. Is your air conditioner an older model? Switching to an energy-efficient air conditioner can reduce the amount of energy used by 20% to 50%. Also, be sure to choose a high-efficiency model that’s the correct size for your living space.
- Upgrade and replace old cooling equipment and filters. Clogged filters and aging equipment can force your HVAC system to work too hard to cool and heat your home, increasing energy use and shortening the working lifespan of the HVAC. Regularly changing HVAC filters and investing in new equipment — including replacing the entire system — amount to a large upfront cost but pay for themselves in the long run.
- Control outdoor appliances with your smart-home hub. Outdoor lights, automatic window shutters and pool pumps can all be controlled from a smart-home hub. Use the hub to schedule when outdoor devices turn on and for how long. Setting smart schedules ensures devices only run when you need them.
- Install outdoor solar lighting. The long, sunny daylight hours of summer are perfect for charging outdoor solar lighting. Sunlight costs nothing to use and can power your outdoor lights for an entire night.
- Plant some shade trees! Shade landscaping positions trees and other vegetation so their shade falls on the house and provides protection from direct sunlight.
- Use ENERGY STAR® appliances. When the time comes to replace your dishwasher or other large appliance, look for models bearing the ENERGY STAR® label. ENERGY STAR® appliances meet federal criteria designed to make appliances operate more efficiently, use less energy and have less of an impact on the environment.
- Install energy-efficient lighting. Are you still using incandescent lights? If so, you might want to consider switching to LEDs. Incandescent light bulbs only convert 10 to 15 percent of the electricity they consume into light — the rest is emitted as heat. Switching to energy-efficient lighting will have an immediate impact on your home’s energy consumption, and it will keep it cooler in the summer.
You don’t have to resign yourself to an uncomfortably hot summer or the excessive energy usage that comes from running your air conditioner or HVAC system. By using these energy-saving tips for summer, you can keep your home running more efficiently while also keeping the heat at bay.