Saving Energy, Saving Money
The greenest energy is the energy you don’t use. To cut down on your utility bills and conserve energy, check out our tips below.
Spring and Summer
- Schedule HVAC maintenance. Before the hot weather hits, schedule an appointment with an expert to check your equipment’s performance. An HVAC technician can tell if it’s time to replace your old cooling unit with a new energy-efficient model. (Newer ENERGY STAR units will result in at least a 15 percent gain in efficiency.)
- Clean filters. Whether your air conditioner is old or new, clean your unit’s filter. Do it before turning it on and then periodically after that. It’s an easy way to improve the unit’s performance and to save energy.
- Make sure your AC is sized properly for the space to be cooled. Contrary to popular belief, a larger unit will not cool a room better. A properly-sized unit will be more efficient, and it will keep the space at a constant temperature and a comfortable humidity level.
- Replace the old thermostat. If you want more control of your energy bills this summer, replace your old thermostat with a programmable one. Even better, get a smart thermostat, which can cut your heating and cooling costs by up to 20 percent.
- Use fans. Fans alone aren’t adequate in a heat wave, but they can be used with an air conditioner—so you don’t have to blast the AC. Run a ceiling fan counter-clockwise, from your position looking up at it, to create a downdraft, and make sure to turn off your fan when you leave the room. (Fans cool people, not rooms.)
- Be safe. Raising your thermostat by only two degrees and using a ceiling fan can lower air conditioning costs by up to 14 percent over the summer. But be smart about it—don’t raise the temperature to an unsafe level. Many utilities recommend setting your thermostat at 74-78 degrees when you’re at home.
- Avoid hot tasks. Delay heat-producing tasks, such as dishwashing, baking, or laundry, until the cooler night or early morning hours. Consider grilling out to keep the kitchen from overheating and your AC from over-working. If grilling isn’t for you, make meals in the microwave.
- Close doors. If your air conditioner is running, make sure to close doors to rooms you don’t use often. The smaller the space to cool, the less work it takes for your system to cool it down.
- Be a good neighbor. Make sure you and your neighbors have a safe and cool place to stay during hot weather. Illinois has free cooling centers. If those aren’t open, movie theaters, shopping malls, public libraries and the homes of friends and family can be cool places of refuge.
*You may qualify to receive these energy-efficient products for FREE.
For ComEd, call: 855-433-2700
For Ameren, call: 866-838-6918
Low-income municipal utility or co-op customers call: 877-411-9276.
Fall and Winter
- Furnace inspection. Have a certified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor inspect your furnace. If your furnace is 15 years or older, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer system.
- New filters. A clean filter helps your HVAC system operate at its best and last longer. You should change your filter as often as every three weeks to as little as every six months. This depends on various factors, like how often you actually use your system to what kind of unit you have (room air conditioners, gas furnaces, etc.) If you have pets or allergies, you may need to clean and replace your filters more often.
- Adjust your thermostat. According to Energy.gov, you should set your home to 68 degrees when you are home and awake. But when you’re asleep or away, you can turn it lower. Our friends at the Citizens Utility Board in Minnesota, citing the Energy Department, say you can turn the thermostat down 10 degrees from what you had it during the day when you were at home. Setting your thermostat back about 10 degrees for at least eight hours a day can save you almost 10 percent on your bill over the course of a year. NEVER go below 55 degrees, because you could freeze your pipes. (Note: If your home is WiFi-enabled, a smart thermostat can help control your home’s temperature and cut heating and cooling costs by up to 20 percent.)
- Outdoor faucets off. Running or leaky outside faucets can cause pipes to freeze and explode. Flushing outside faucets before winter is a great way to remove any excess water that could freeze up later. You may even want to consider purchasing an insulated cover for each outdoor faucet. Read CUB’s blog on properly draining faucets.
- Don’t use an oven or grill to heat your home. If you use a space heater, keep children and pets away from it. Place it on a hard, level surface; keep it away from flammable objects; and don’t leave it on overnight. Also, the Department of Energy recommends that such heaters should be plugged directly into the wall outlet. (If an extension cord is necessary, use the shortest possible heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger. Check and follow any manufacturer’s instructions.) It also recommends buying a unit with a safety switch that automatically shuts off the heater if the unit is tipped over.
- Only use generators outdoors and avoid warming up your car inside your closed garage. To prevent possible carbon monoxide poisoning (Knows the signs of poisoning.) install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of problems. Make sure they’re all in working order.
- Dirty chimneys account for 27 percent of home-heating fires. Like space heaters, keep objects away from them. And when you’re done using the fireplace, close the damper so warm air doesn’t escape up the chimney.
If you have questions about these tips, please call CUB at 1-800-669-5556 or visit CUB’s Clean Energy page at CitizensUtilityBoard.org/clean-energy.