When it’s a scorcher outside, nothing beats the cool blast of modern air conditioning. But when the electricity bill comes, we start to think about ways to cut costs and reduce our carbon footprint. Electricity use peaks in the summer, but luckily there are a few things you can do to keep your home cool without spending a fortune. Below you’ll learn various energy-saving tips for summer, but many of them will also help save energy during the fall and winter.
New Time-of-Day Summer Rates
Time-of-Day (5–8 p.m.) Summer Rates from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) are currently in effect, from June 1 through September 30. These higher summer rates reflect the actual cost of providing service. The demand for electricity soars between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., when people are returning home but businesses remain open. And with the temperatures increasing, so does our reliance on air conditioning, causing us to use about 1.5 times more electricity per hour.
When SMUD can no longer provide renewable energy (hydroelectric, solar, and wind), they must rely on their gas power plant for most peak demand power. And for about two weeks out of the year, demand exceeds total capacity. Consequently, SMUD has to purchase extra power from “peaker plants,” which emit a lot more carbon emissions than other power sources.
This is why electricity costs 2–3 times higher during peak demand (5–8 p.m.). Reducing energy use during these hours will lower your electricity bill and reduce your impact on the environment.
The chart below shows the different SMUD rates for Off-Peak, Mid-Peak, and Peak time periods.
Here are some tips for saving money and energy by switching to lower cost time periods:
- Most dishwashers have a delay start timer that can be scheduled to turn on at a later time. Set the delay feature to turn on sometime between midnight and noon, when electricity rates are at their lowest.
- On hot days, use the oven, stove, washing machine, dryer, and other heat-producing appliances in the morning or later in the evening.
- Unplug or get rid of any extra fridges or freezers that you don’t need.
- Prepare cold meals as much as possible. For hot meals, use the outdoor grill or cook in the morning or night.
- Microwaves use a lot less energy than ovens or stovetops. Consider using the microwave during peak hours.
- Use fans to help you feel a lot cooler. With a ceiling fan, you can raise the thermostat setting around 4°F with no noticeable change in comfort. Remember to turn off any fans when you leave the room. They only make you feel cooler; they don’t actually lower the temperature of the room.
- You can use a programmable thermostat to automatically raise the temperature a couple of degrees during peak demand, then return to its regular setting at night.
- Turn off lights and electronics when you leave the room.
It’s amazing what a few small changes can do to your electricity bill. You’ll save money and energy every time you shift some of your electricity usage to mid-peak and off-peak hours. Continue reading for more money-saving tips for summer.
Programmable Thermostat Settings for Summer Savings
When you install a programmable thermostat, you can save an estimated 10% on heating and cooling costs. Programmable thermostats give you the ability to set precise schedules for your heating and air conditioning. You can still manually set the temperature as you please without disrupting the daily or weekly preset schedule. Now that you know SMUD’s off-, mid-, and peak-demand times, you can set your thermostat accordingly.
Here is a suggested programmable thermostat schedule you can use as a starting point:
|Setting||Time||Setpoint (Cool)||Setpoint (Heat)|
|Wake||6:00 a.m.||> 78° F||< 70° F|
|Day||8:00 a.m.||Setup at least 7° F||Setback at least 8° F|
|Evening||6:00 p.m.||> 78° F||< 70° F|
|Sleep||10:00 p.m.||Setup at least 4° F||Setback at least 8° F|
Keep in mind that the peak demand time for summer is 5 to 8 p.m., so set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible during this time period. Don’t try to cool your home faster by lowering the temperature to a colder setting. Your HVAC system won’t work any faster and it could lead to excessive cooling and high energy bills.
Consider smart and WiFi thermostats for the ability to monitor and control your HVAC system while away from home. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat or are interested in upgrading, contact the experts at Bell Brothers for help choosing and installing the perfect thermostat.
Benefits of Energy-Efficient Windows
Your windows are responsible for much of the heat gain and loss in your home. New window features and enhancements, such as vacuum-sealed spaces and improved framing materials, will reduce energy use while improving comfort levels.
Here are some of the benefits of upgrading your windows:
Lower energy bills
With more efficient windows, you can cut your energy bills by 7–24% (Energy Star). When coupled with air sealing and insulation, you can double your reduction.
Energy-efficient windows reduce unwanted heat loss and heat gain into your home, keeping your home’s interior temperature more comfortable and consistent.
Higher quality windows are thicker and more tightly sealed, making them much harder to break into.
Furniture, art, wood floors, drapes, and other items in your home can quickly fade or discolor with repeated exposure to direct sunlight. Many windows now have low-E (low-emissivity) coatings that reduce infrared and ultraviolet light from the sun without reducing the visible light. This coating is transparent, but helps reflect heat and fading UV rays away from the home.
For customized, high-efficiency window options for your Sacramento-area home, contact Bell Brothers today. We can help you navigate your window options for enhanced energy efficiency, soundproofing, and security. In addition to low energy bills and improved comfort, upgrading your windows can also qualify you for substantial rebates from local utilities, such as SMUD and PG&E.
All of our windows come with a Lifetime Guarantee. If you’re ready to upgrade, replace, or retrofit the windows in your home, schedule your free, in-home estimate today with the experts at Bell Brothers.
Window Tips for Gaining Cool Air and Blocking Heat
Upgrading to energy-efficient windows can be expensive, but luckily there are other ways you can improve comfort and lower energy bills — sealing air leaks, adding energy-efficient window attachments, and improving insulation.
Here are some ways to reduce solar heat gain through your windows:
- Keep window coverings, such as blinds and drapes, closed during the day, especially for windows that receive direct sunlight. According to the EPA, “colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%.”
- Exterior shutters and shades are the most effective at reducing solar heat gain. You may also want to consider awnings and exterior solar window screens. Most of these exterior window treatments can be conveniently opened and closed from inside the home.
- If the weather is cool at night or in the morning, consider cracking a window or two to allow fresh air into the house.
Maintaining an Efficient Cooling System
If you want your air conditioner to operate efficiently for a long time, follow these important maintenance tips:
- Schedule annual professional maintenance for your air conditioner, preferably at the beginning of the cooling season.
- Check the condition of your air filter every 30 days and change or clean it when it’s dirty. Regular filter changes can reduce your AC energy consumption by 5–15%.
- Keep the thermostat away from direct sunlight and other heat sources to prevent false readings, which can cause the AC to run longer than it needs to.
- Keep all vents and registers open and unblocked.
- Periodically clean the area around your outdoor unit (fan, compressor, and condenser). Maintain a minimum 2-foot clearance around the unit for proper airflow.
- Hire a reputable, qualified professional for annual maintenance, repairs, and replacements.
Around 30% of your cooling system’s energy consumption gets lost to air leaks in your duct system. If you have ductwork in dusty areas like attics and crawlspaces, that air gets sucked in through the duct leaks and circulates the dirt and dust throughout your home. Additionally, duct leaks can make it difficult to heat or cool certain areas of the home.
Seal and insulate your air ducts for improved indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and comfort. While you may be able to seal the air ducts on your own, a professional will be able to locate every air leak and seal all the hard-to-reach spots, including behind walls, ceilings, attics, and basements. Schedule your free in-home estimate today for your HVAC, duct sealing, and insulation needs.
Sacramento HVAC, Windows, and Insulation
Homes that were built before 1985 lack the proper amount of insulation by today’s standards. These leaky homes lose a lot of heating and cooling energy, resulting in comfort problems, high utility bills, and increased energy consumption. Windows account for about 25 to 50 percent of the HVAC costs. In addition to leaking air, windows gain and lose a lot of heat through transference via the glass. Single-pane windows have particularly noticeable heat transference. Double-pane windows slow down the convection process by providing an air space between the glass.
Make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient with today’s energy-efficient plumbing, HVAC, window, and insulation options. The earlier you start making energy-efficient improvements, the sooner you will enjoy the comfort and energy savings that come with it. With smart planning, you can cut energy consumption, increase comfort, and qualify for tax credits.
When it comes to optimizing energy efficiency and saving money this summer, trust the experts at Bell Brothers.