How can you stay cool and keep electricity bills reasonable?

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

If you have looked at your thermometer lately, you know that the Austin summer is in full force.  Those 100 degree days are just around the corner.   Here are tips to stay cool, and keep those summer month electricity bills reasonable:

Arrange an HVAC inspection. Anyone can hire a certified technician for an annual check that their home s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system is operating at peak efficiency. Leaking ducts, for example, could reduce energy efficiency by up to 20%.  Inspections usually cost around $100, but that could be offset by the energy savings in no time.

Keep it clean. Clean air filters monthly. Dirt and dust hinder air flow, reducing efficiency.

Program the thermostat. Give the air conditioner a break during the work day. Shifting the settings to allow higher daytime temperatures could cut the average household s electric bill by almost $200 a year, according to Energy Star.

Seek out incentives on appliances. Investing in a new energy-efficient unit can cut long-term bills -- and be cheaper upfront, too. Check for government and utility deals in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Seal up the house. Cooled air can leak through cracks along window and door frames. Invest in some caulk and weather-stripping to plug up these drafts. A home that s properly insulated and sealed improves energy efficiency by up to 20% year-round, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.

Close the blinds. Rooms get hotter without shades or curtains to block the sunlight, especially with south- and west-facing windows. Put this idea to work more effectively with insulated window treatments.

Use fans. A breeze makes the room feel a few degrees cooler. Just be sure to turn it off when leaving. Fans cool people, not rooms.

Unplug. Gadgets like a cellphone charger or microwave suck energy -- and generate heat -- as long as they're attached to a power source. Standby power for appliances not in use typically accounts for 5% to 10% of residential electricity use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Plug those devices into a power strip that can be turned off when not in use.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water.  90% of the energy your washer uses goes to heat the water.  Switching to cold can really add up.

All of these things can really add up to some nice savings, and remember, you can always take dip in Barton Springs to cool you off.