Summer savings tips

This spring was the coldest, wettest one in years, and allergies kept pace. Luckily, almost everything has bloomed and those of us with allergies finally caught a break. Now that the pollen is mostly gone and temperatures are skyrocketing, how about giving your gas, electric and other utility bills a break, too?

sunny summer skyHere are a few tips.

  1. Reduce peak energy use. You know that utility companies charge more for energy during peak demand hours, usually 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., right? If your business gobbles energy during these hours, try to move some operations to off-peak hours. Your employees might thank you, especially if they have to work in the hot sun.
  2. Close window blinds to keep out heat and direct sunlight. Or install window film or solar screens such as those manufactured by Halcyon, St. Louis. Or what about old-fashioned awnings? The old technologies are sometimes the best, and they’re often the cheapest, too.
  3. Take this dollar bill and … Test how tight the seals on your refrigerator are by closing the door over an ordinary piece of paper or a dollar bill, so it’s half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch might need to be adjusted or the seal might need to be replaced. How old is that fridge, anyway? Consider throwing it out — responsibly, of course — and buying a new one. Older appliances tend to be energy hogs, and refrigerators account for 10-11 percent of a total energy bill.
  4. Do the tighten up. Plugging or filling cracks or leaks in the building with caulking and weather stripping is an excellent, low-cost way to tighten up your building’s envelope and save energy. Typically, you’ll find gaps around windows, doors and utility outlets. Also, when was the last time you checked the attic or higher, unused floor space? Tip: If squirrels, raccoons, birds and other critters are rummaging around up there, it’s not all that tight.
  5. Location, location, location. Are your refrigerators located away from hot exterior walls and windows or other heat-producing equipment? If not, move them pronto. Leave about five inches of room behind the refrigerator for air to flow, if possible.
  6. Keep the fridge full. Seriously? Yes. It’s basic physics. Having a lot of items in the fridge means they borrow cold from each other, keeping the unit from warming up too fast when the door is open. The result is your fridge doesn’t have to work so hard to stay cool.
  7. Stay in. Or out. Avoid unnecessary trips in and out of the house, especially on really hot days. Heat and humidity rush in each time you open that door, forcing your AC to work that much harder and consume that much more energy.
  8. Dial it back. Install a programmable thermostat. When no one is in the building (typically eight or more hours a day), a thermostat can adjust the temperature by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer) and help reduce your energy bills by 10 percent or more.
  9. Turn it off! Most older and quite a few newer devices generate a surprising amount of heat, as anyone who’s sat with a laptop on their lap for any period of time knows. Even new stereos and that ultra-slim flat screen TV add heat. If you can shave, brush teeth, apply makeup, cook or read without the lights on, do so. Only about 10-15 percent of the electricity regular incandescent light bulbs use results in light. The rest is heat.
    Try giving up hot devices such as curling irons or hair dryers, too; they’re bad for your hair anyway. On hot days, avoid using the oven at home. Instead, use the stove, the microwave, grill outside or just eat a salad. Replace those old incandescents, which were cutting edge technology circa 1879, with LED bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs or halogen bulbs. Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes at home, using cold water, then air dry. That’s how grandma did it, and it worked out pretty well for her. For more tips visit Energy.gov.
  10. Take shorter showers and avoid baths. Every heard of a Navy shower? You wet your body, turn the water off, lather up then turn the water back on to rinse. Not only will this save water and money, you’ll emerge from the shower with a lower core body temperature, meaning you won’t be sweating so much straight out of the shower. Learn more ways to reduce your hot water use.
  11. Install ceiling fans. Fans can make it feel at least four degrees cooler.
  12. Try transit or ride-sharing. Driving to work seems to take longer and makes us tenser every year, seems like. So why not let someone else drive for a change? Even if there’s no transit where you live, you can share rides. We know one director who carpooled for years. He said he didn’t really mind the expense of driving 70 miles round-trip daily, but he didn’t like it too much when he was really tired. And, you guessed it, his example inspired the whole office to car-pool.


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