Saving money while keeping cool

Manage your summer energy bills with a variety of approaches.

With warmer temperatures upon us, many consumers will notice an increase in their energy use. Consider a variety of approaches to keep your energy bills manageable including an energy assessment, budget-billing plan or energy efficiency offers, and small changes that can add up.

An energy assessment can help you see how efficient your cooling (or heating) system is and where you may be wasting energy. To see who provides this service in your area, contact your utility company, local government weatherization office or visit energysavers.gov for additional resources. Before hiring a professional, be sure to ask for references and review the company’s history with your local consumer protection agency. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that an energy assessment auditor should do the following: use a calibrated blower door, conduct a thermographic inspection and provide an assessment summary with implementable recommendations. If you want to conduct a do-it-yourself assessment, visit the Department of Energy for how-to information.

To avoid high spikes in your energy bills, consider a budget billing program if offered through your utility provider. While this program does not lower your energy bills, it helps reduce seasonal strains on your budget. If you do not have a current budget in place, visit MI Money Health from Michigan State University Extension for a variety of financial tips, including how to develop a monthly budget. Other programs to consider are potential rebates or incentives for purchasing energy-efficient products. Contact your utility company to see if these programs are available and if there are any eligibility criteria.

If you do decide to purchase a new cooling (or heating) system, the FTC recommends that you consider how efficient the system is. Be sure to ask about a system’s EnergyGuide label (i.e. how efficient the system is compared to other comparable models) and if the system has an Energy Star logo (i.e. the logo means that a system meets certain energy efficiency criteria).

Lastly, if you are not in the market for a new cooling (or heating) system, consider the importance of small changes. For example:

  • Consider special window treatments that can help reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter (i.e. draperies, awnings, blinds, high-reflective films, etc.)
  • To reduce air leakage, caulk and weatherstrip around windows, or if your windows are old and inefficient you might want to think about the benefits of replacing them
  • Check air filters for air conditioners (and forced-air furnaces) on a regular basis to see if they need to be cleaned or replaced
  • If you have them, make sure that fireplace dampers are closed when not in use
  • Do not forget to adjust your thermostat (i.e. lower in the winter and higher in the summer).

For more information on how to reduce your energy bills visit the FTC.

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