Does it cost you more to cool your home than to heat it? Why summer energy conservation makes sense.



energywasting homeMost of us have a tendency to focus on home energy saving during cold weather months, when heating bills rise and you can actually feel chilly drafts coming through leaky windows and poorly insulated attics and crawl spaces. But your home can lose just as much if not more energy during the hot summer, when those same windows and attics are still leaking air, but in reverse (red, pink and yellow spaces in this infrared photo show where the house is leaking energy, whether it’s hot or cold outside.) No wonder more consumers are focusing on summer energy conservation in addition to the steps they take in the fall and winter! Take a look at the numbers from my latest electricity bill (I live just outside Washington, DC). I used twice as much electricity in June this year as I did in November last year, and more in July than I did in January.

 

DIANE’S ELECTRICITY USAGE …

NOVEMBER 2010         compared to                 JUNE  2011
590 KWH ……………………………………….. 1180 KWH

JANUARY 2011              compared to                 JULY 2011 
1300 KWH ………………………………………. 1480 KWH

 

In other words, when I compare the coldest months of the year to the hottest, it’s actually costing me more to cool my home than to heat it.

Summer Energy Conservation Action Steps

Take a look at your own recent electricity bill, especially compared to the colder winter months. Then consider these recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the amount of energy you’re using summer as well as winter.

home insulation graphic#1 – Insulate. Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your area. Insulation is measured in R-values—the higher the R-value, the better your walls and roof will resist the transfer of heat. DOE recommends ranges of R-values based on local heating and cooling costs and climate conditions in different areas of the nation. This map and chart show the DOE recommendations for your area. State and local code minimum insulation requirements may be less than the DOE recommendations, which are based on cost effectiveness. For more customized insulation recommendations, check out this Zip Code Insulation Calculator. It provides insulation levels for your new or existing home based on your zip code and other basic information about your home.

While you’re at it, insulate around cooling and heating ducts to prevent additional energy loss. That step alone could improve your HVAC performance 20%. When choosing insulation, check with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the latest research on home insulation. There are many varieties available, with many health and safety pros and cons. The most common is blown-in or batting fiberglass insulation, but the “off gassing” from the fiberglass has been known to make people sick. Insulation made from denim and cellulose is also available, but some builders question how effective it is. Research is changing all the time, so make sure to read product reviews before you choose.

#2 – Weatherize. Add weather stripping to seal leaky frames around doors and windows. You can buy it in long rolls and cut it to fit without much hassle, especially if you buy the self-adhesive kind. Most hardware stores will carry a variety of weatherstripping, or you can purchase it online here.  

#3 – Change your HVAC air filters. EPA’s EnergyStar program recommends changing air filters at least every three months, though monthly is better, especially in summer and winter, when your heating and cooling systems are working their hardest.

#4 – Use blinds, drapes and curtains. Even after you’ve insulated your windows, keep the sun from coming through them by drawing the curtains or closing the blinds.

nest thermostat#5 – Moderate your indoor air temps using a programmable thermostat. There’s no need to keep your house extremely cool when you go to work or otherwise leave for extended periods of time. A programmable thermostat makes it easy to automatically turn your air conditioning up when you leave for work and down a bit before you get home. One of the best on the market is the NEST thermostat, pictured right.  Here are a few other thermostat options to choose from.

NOTE: Both DOE and my local utility recommend keeping the thermostat at 78 degrees when you’re home in the summer. If you need additional cooling, try a small table top or window fan.

SHOP OUR STORE for more energy-saving products, including programmable thermostats, weatherstripping, fans, power strips, and timers.

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18 Responses to Does it cost you more to cool your home than to heat it? Why summer energy conservation makes sense.

  1. Adrian Desbarats July 25, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Something I thought of but have not yet tried is this:
    If you have a basement, this is a place where the air is always cool, even in summer since it is kept cool by the earth. So why not run some vents between the basement and upstairs with a fan. In summer, turn on the fan and push cool air upstairs and an opposing fan to move warm air downstairs?
    Something to consider..

  2. Rachel White July 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    Diane, Thanks for reminding us that energy conservation isn’t only for winter. Given your climate, it isn’t all that surprising that your electric bill is higher in the summer than it is in the winter. Am I correct in assuming that you have electric heat? If you have another heat source (gas perhaps) then you would need to factor that into your analysis as well.

  3. adam @ greendoglove.com August 1, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    Thanks for the tips. I’m all about efficiency and reducing energy usage.
    Is it expensive to install adjustable thermostats? Or is it relatively simple?

  4. Diane MacEachern August 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Well…I had mine installed, but if you know electronics, you could probably easily do it.

  5. Mary Walls August 4, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    Great post. These energy saving tips really matter. Even the simplest thing, like putting up blinds and curtains, plays important role.
    This site is also helpful: http://bestblindsaround.com/. Thanks for the post. Keep it up.

  6. Diane MacEachern August 4, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    Thanks for the link, Mary!

  7. keith August 5, 2011 at 3:01 am #

    Great article. You can also use passive solar techniques to give you energy savings for both Summer and Winter – see the article on my link for more information on how to this. There are ways you can save money and save the planet at the same time.

  8. Lily August 11, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Very cool article. I recently read (and never even thought of this) but painting your roof a white color or buying lighter colored shingles… Great tips & love the blog!

  9. Metal Roofing supplier September 14, 2011 at 5:00 am #

    Great tips! I’ve saved money following these steps. I’ve had a home inspector come and show me how I was losing energy each month. I’m now currently installing a metal roof, and this should help!
    - Jessica

  10. layton roofing September 26, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    Great post.Conserving energy you can save money at a time…

  11. dranon October 14, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Wrapping your hot water heater with an insulated blanket and insulating the hot water pipes will save money on utilities as well. It costs more than people realize to keep hot water at the ready 24-7, especially in colder climates.

  12. Roselyn Withem October 19, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    We generally consume more energy during the hot season because heat travels faster than cold. So during the winter, when we heat our house, it gets warm easily. But on summer days, it takes time to cool the house because it is heavier than heat.

  13. Diane MacEachern October 19, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Thanks so much for your observations. Keep ‘em coming!

  14. custom home builders northern virginia March 1, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    Great tips Diane! I’m going to send a link to your blog post to my client list, summer isn’t that far off and I think everyone could benefit from reading this. Thanks!

  15. Diane MacEachern March 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    I’m delighted you find the information useful. Let me know what else you need to help your clients become more efficient.

  16. orlando roofing company June 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    A good practice is to get your roof checked before the summer hits here in Orlando, Florida. Energy efficient housing can go a long way in saving on household expenses.

  17. Charlotte Black June 23, 2012 at 4:44 am #

    I believe the faster to cool or faster to warm home depends on the location. I guess the costing will just balance out throughout the year. If it is easier to cool a home, it might be harder to warm it and vice versa.

  18. Diane June 10, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Having a regular writing routine helps. Plus, I keep a “to do” list, so when I sit down in the morning, I know what my priorities are. Good luck!

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