Chances are it’s not just the temperature that’s got you hot under the collar this summer. Power bills are hitting record highs, and everyone is feeling the heat.
But there are a few things you can do to keep your money and your cool when the mercury starts to rise:
1. Replace those old light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Initially they cost more, but many are guaranteed for five years, and they use a lot less power—which means more money in your pocket.
Replace just the six most-used lights in your house with compact fluorescent bulbs, and you can save more than $60 a year, says Lou Manfredini, host of the syndicated TV show “House Smarts,” home consultant for NBC’s “Today” show and spokesman for Ace Hardware. Replace them all, and you’re looking at a savings more in the neighborhood of $200 per year.
Tom Silva, general contractor for “This Old House” and “Ask This Old House,” agrees. “I just put 25 in my house, and I noticed a considerable difference in my electric bill.”
2. Install a programmable thermostat. Forget what you’ve heard about keeping the house at a constant temperature. “You can save 20 percent of what you spend on air and heat if you manipulate the thermostat,” says Manfredini. In the summer, set your thermostat so the temperature rises when no one is home. In the winter, do the opposite, and set it so that the temperature drops during the day.
Here’s the trick: “Allow a good 30 or 45 minutes” to get the house comfortable before you return. The thermostat itself will cost you about $100, and just about anyone can install them, he says.
3. Invest in a tankless water heater. Rather than constantly heating a supply of water, a tankless heater heats water only when you use it. And while you’re using it, it never runs out.
“You could take a shower for 30 days and never run out of hot water,” says Manfredini.
But it’s the energy savings and the potential water conservation that makes a tankless heater “the must-have appliance in your home,” he says.
While it has to be professionally installed (and that can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000), a tankless water heater will pay for itself over the years in savings. Estimate that you’ll save about 20 percent on powering your water heater. So if your current behemoth uses $300 in power in a year, you can save $60 a year in power alone. And you get a tax incentive for having it installed.
4. Insulate that attic. Sure, it’s the middle of summer, and no one wants to think about blankets. But an extra blanket of insulation will keep the heat out of your living quarters and keep those energy bills down. Want to save a little extra? Install a solar-powered exhaust fan to get rid of trapped hot air and keep mold and mildew at bay.
5. Install low-flow showerheads. With the typical showerhead, a 10-minute shower costs you 22 gallons of water. That’s 154 gallons a week, multiplied by the number of people in your house, if you shower daily. “And in a lot of places, water is pretty expensive,” says Manfredini.
But you can cut that use by about a third. Low-flow showerheads use only 1.5 gallons of water per minute, instead of 2.2 gallons. While that doesn’t seem like much, says Manfredini, “it all adds up.”