My summer electric bills seem extreme!

My summer electric bills seem extreme!

Dear Matt,
My summer electric bills seem extreme. How can I get ahead of it this year and not have a high electric bill?

Summer electric bills stand out as the highest electric bills we get all year. Kansas summers can get extremely hot, and that means electricity bills increase. About half of the energy your home uses is heating and cooling. Consider having an HVAC professional come out and perform routine maintenance. Maintenance can help efficiency and save money.  

  • Clean your outdoor condenser unit. Dirt and other debris can clog the unit and prevent the exchange of air. You can do this yourself with a hose but shut your breaker off first to be safe. Be careful to control the pressure and not damage any components. If you have a window unit, you can clean the outside of these units, as well. 
  • Clear airflow. A rule of thumb is two feet around the unit that should be clear. Tall weeds and brush can also impede airflow, so make sure there is a clear area around the AC unit. Also, keep the vents inside your home open and clear of debris. Take time to take the covers off and vacuum them out to ensure proper airflow.
  • Stop airflow. Fill gaps and cracks around windows or other spots air can escape. Air sealing is vital to keeping cooler air in and warm air out. 
  • Change your filters. Check your filters regularly. You can change it monthly during months of heavy use. A dirty air filter can add a 10% cost increase due to lagging efficiency. 
  • Shade. Keep the sun from shining in and heating your home. The easiest way to help insulate is to pull drapes or shades. Radiant heat can heat a room! And, don’t forget to close storm windows when you start your AC. Make sure both windows are closed tightly.
  • Set the temp. Keep your AC set a few degrees warmer, especially if you are not at home. Work toward 78 degrees. You may find that the warmer temperature is tolerable. 
  • Ceiling fans. Help circulate air with a fast-moving ceiling fan turning counterclockwise to blow air downward to cool people in the room. Using a ceiling fan can create a 4-degree wind chill effect. Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, so shut them off when nobody is in the room. 
  • Use the sun and wind. Drying laundry takes approximately $0.50 per load, and when the dryer is running, it produces more heat for the AC to control. If possible, install a clothesline and avoid using the dryer. Instead, use the breeze and sun to dry a load of laundry. 

Maintenance, conservation, and lifestyle can be combined to help you control the impact of extreme weather on your bill. 

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