Tuesday marked the first official day of summer. What that also means is with energy prices high and temperatures showing no signs of dropping off, heavy household cooling costs are here to stay for the summer months. But there are some simple ways you can beat the heat without breaking the budget. The Department of Energy has highlighted a number of steps you can take to increase your home’s energy efficiency, and in turn, reduce energy costs.
Cooling a house in the summertime can account for more than half of a family’s monthly utility expenses. While there are newer, more efficient air conditioning systems, good ventilation is the cheapest, most energy-efficient way to cool a home or apartment. In multi-level homes, attic ventilation reduces the stress on your air conditioning units, and caulking or weather stripping windows and doorways keeps hot air out of living areas.
Household appliances that plug into the wall continue to draw power even when turned off. Using power strips can sharply reduce the amount of energy consumed and protect your appliances from electrical surges that can result from summer thunderstorms. The Federal Government also offers rebates for the purchase of new ENERGY STAR-qualified environmentally-friendly appliances, but even small things like hang-drying clothes cuts down on electricity costs while taking advantage of the warm weather.
At home and at work, desktop and laptop computers use large amounts of energy. Many of these computers have a “sleep mode” function. Turning on the “sleep mode” function when you are not using the computer for longer than 20 minutes will save energy and increase the life of your computer. Some ENERGY STAR monitors have the capability to reduce energy consumption to less than 10% when using “sleep mode.”
Though gas prices have dropped in recent weeks, prices are still roughly one dollar higher than this time last year. While on the road, practicing safe and sensible driving habits can greatly increase your fuel efficiency. Aggressive driving leads to reduced gas mileage at highway speeds by as much as 33 percent. The Department of Energy notes that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.30 per gallon for gas.
Another easy way to increase fuel efficiency is to ensure your tires are properly inflated. Doing so can increase gas mileage by 3.3 percent. The warmer weather also provides a good opportunity to swap your car for a bike or public transportation to make your daily commute or for running errands.
While I will continue working in Congress on long term energy solutions to promote alternative energy sources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the suggestions above are a few simple solutions that can reduce your monthly energy expenses.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.