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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
Blog: Keep cool while spending less on energy
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By Molly Hall, Energy Education Council
Aug. 11, 2014 10 a.m.

The Midwest is experiencing another intense summer heat wave. Sweltering hot days make it harder to keep your home cool, straining air conditioning systems and energy budgets. The Energy Education Council (EEC) offers some simple tips to boost comfort and save on electric bills during the sultriest of days:

Make sure your air conditioner filter is clean. Change or clean it monthly during the cooling season.

Ensure air can move freely around the air conditioner unit coils. Remove leaves and plant overgrowth that could keep it from operating efficiently.

Use ceiling and oscillating fans to create a "wind chill" effect. The moving air makes the temperature feel cooler and allows a higher air conditioner thermostat setting while maintaining cooling comfort. For each 1-degree increase in the thermostat setting, cooling costs can be lowered by about 3 percent.

Avoid unnecessary trips in and out of the house, which let in hot, humid air.

Turn off lights, televisions, and computers when not in use.

Close drapes and shades on sunny days.

Plan to do hot work, washing and drying clothes, cooking, and baking, during cooler morning and evening hours.

Keep your kitchen cooler by cooking in a microwave oven or grilling outdoors.

Make sure heat-producing appliances like televisions and lamps are away from the thermostat. They will increase the temperature near the thermostat and cause the air conditioner to run when it is not needed.

"There are several low-cost measures that can yield big energy savings," says EEC Executive Director Molly Hall. "Replace traditional light bulbs with lower wattage compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Incandescent bulbs waste 95 percent of their energy in heat; CFLs burn cooler, use only a fourth of the energy, and come in many styles and color temperatures.

Other low-cost suggestions include:

Install a timer or a programmable thermostat to increase and decrease the temperature automatically. Leave it on a higher temperature while you are away, and set it to cool the house half an hour before you return home.

Seal air leaks and cracks. Weather stripping and caulking are inexpensive ways to improve efficiency and cut energy costs year round.

Ventilate the attic, and check insulation. Adequately sized vents and/or an attic fan can help keep hot air from building up. If you can see the ceiling joists in your attic, consider adding insulation. Proper attic insulation can save up to 30 percent of your cooling bill. Be sure the insulation does not block vents or cover exhaust fans.

Increased summer electric demands do not only place a strain on budgets, they also can place a severe strain on your home's electrical system, which poses a dangerous shock and fire hazard. Frequent circuit breaker trips or flickering or dimming lights, TV screens, or computer monitors are signs of an overloaded electrical system or faulty wiring that should be checked immediately by a professional.

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