WASHINGTON, July 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Now that the dazzle of Independence Day has come and gone, it's about time for the "Dog Days" of summer that boost electricity use and put a strain on both consumers' pocketbooks and the nation's electricity grid. To help alleviate the pressure, the Alliance to Save Energy advises consumers to take energy efficiency steps around the home to save money and help prevent power outages.
The Alliance has projected that the average U.S. household will spend more than $2,000 on home energy this year, so cutting monthly bills by 10 or 20 percent with energy efficiency means significant savings. The Alliance also notes that certain energy efficiency home improvements qualify for generous federal income tax credits of up to $1,500. The credits expire on December 31, 2010; so it's a good time to consider taking advantage of them.
The Alliance suggests the following tips to help beat the heat:
- Cooling puts the greatest stress on the power grid and summer energy bills, so make sure your AC equipment is in top running order. A professional "tune-up" could save you the cost and misery of a breakdown on the hottest days.
- Replacing your 12+ year old central air conditioning system (CAC) with an ENERGY STAR qualified model could cut your cooling costs by 30 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And while these products can have a higher purchase price, the cost difference will be paid back over time through lower energy bills, EPA adds.
- For optimum performance, make sure CAC systems or window units are properly sized. EPA says a system that's too large will not keep your home comfortable due to frequent "on/off" cycling. Incorrect sizing can also put stress on system components and shorten the equipment's life. A qualified contractor can help you ensure proper sizing.
- Purchase the AC unit with the highest Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) that you can afford – the higher the SEER level, the more energy efficient the equipment. Current federal appliance standards require a SEER rating of at least 13 on CAC systems.
- Clean or replace CAC system filters monthly – and window unit filters even more frequently.
- Using ceiling fans to circulate air will make you feel cooler and possibly allow you to raise the temperature setting on your AC thermostat by a few degrees. But be sure to turn the fan off when you leave the room, because fans cool people, not rooms.
- A programmable thermostat automatically coordinates indoor temperatures with your daily and weekend patterns, reducing cooling bills by up to 10 percent by raising the indoor temperature while the house is empty – yet ensuring that when you return home, it's cool and comfortable.
- Plug energy leaks with weather stripping and caulking and be sure your house is properly insulated to save up to 20 percent on cooling (and winter heating) bills. These (and other) energy efficiency home improvements can generate a federal tax credit of up to $1,500; see www.ase.org/taxcredits for details on qualifying products.
- Shift energy-intensive household chores such as laundry and dishwashing to off-peak hours – nights, mornings, weekends – when there is less strain on the power grid; and operate these units with full loads to get the most for your energy dollars.
- Save water and energy with ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washers and dishwashers. Choose clothes dryers with moisture sensors that reduce drying time.
- Your refrigerator runs 24/7 and accounts for almost 10 percent of your home's total electricity bill. To reduce energy bills and extend the life of the appliance, keep the coils clean – they are located behind or underneath the fridge.
- If your fridge dates from the 1980s, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR model can save you more than $100 each year. Replacing a 1970s fridge with an ENERGY STAR model can save nearly $200 each year! Use the ENERGY STAR Savings Calculator to find out how much you can save by replacing an old refrigerator.
- Your air conditioner works overtime to cool hot air from sunny windows, so consider investing in energy-efficient windows to save money and increase indoor comfort. Efficient windows, glass doors and skylights are eligible for federal tax credits (see www.ase.org/taxcredits for qualifying criteria). If you live in the Sun Belt, look into "low-e" windows, which can cut the cooling load by 10 to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Savers booklet (http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/pdfs/energy_savers.pdf).
- Curtains and shades on the sunny sides of your home will provide additional relief.
- Light up your life – efficiently. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) that use only about one-quarter the energy and last up to 10 times longer saves up to $35 over the life of each bulb. If every U.S. household replaced just one incandescent bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, we would collectively save enough energy to light 16 million homes and save over $4 billion in utility bills over the lifetime of the bulbs. In one year, we would save almost $750 million and enough energy to light about 3 million homes. And CFLs don't add to your heat load – a bonus in the summertime!
- And to cut related electricity bills by 30 percent, look for the ENERGY STAR label when shopping for major appliances, home office equipment, electronics and additional products in more than 60 product categories. Find product information and nearby retailers at www.energystar.gov.
The Alliance to Save Energy is a coalition of prominent business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide to benefit consumers, the environment, economy, and national security.
SOURCE Alliance to Save Energy