Why Your Summer Energy Bills Are So High

Yes, it’s almost always painful to receive that first energy bill of the summer months. That first month where the outdoor heat kicks into overdrive usually results in a friendly notice from the electric company with a number that sometimes has an extra digit that we didn’t expect or a “3” in place of the “1” we’re used to.

Yes, it’s the air conditioner. Go outside and watch your energy meter for a while and observe the difference between the times that your air conditioning is running and the times when it is not running. When it’s on, your energy meter starts spinning like a 78 RPM record or a CD still rotating in place – when it’s not spinning, it looks like a lazy carousel.

That’s money down the drain, folks. Thankfully, there are several things that people can do to significantly reduce the energy use of their vacuum.

Reduce Your A.C. Usage

Get some maintenance

Building Operations and Management Magazine notes that “[f]acilities in which proper HVAC maintenance is completed will use at least 15 to 20 percent less energy than those where systems are allowed to deteriorate.” My own experience has matched this statistic – we saw a 10% drop in our overall energy bill year over year when accounting for every other change we could conceive of.

How do you “get some maintenance,” though? You can do some of it yourself by simply changing the filter, as a clean filter cuts down on the resistance against air flow passing through the filter (and improves filtration, of course). More importantly, the drain on your air conditioning unit needs to be cleaned out regularly as well – annually is best. Dirt builds up in there and with the moisture present, it can also mold and clog, drastically reducing the efficiency of your unit. I encourage you to hire a maintenance person to take a look at your external air conditioning unit annually and perform maintenance on it. The energy savings will allow you to break even (at the very worst) on the cost and it’ll also greatly extend the life of your unit.

Draw the blinds

Yes, we all like to have plenty of brightness in our home, but when direct sunlight is pouring in a window, the one thing you’re also guaranteeing is that the house is heating up.

The solution? Draw the blinds (or curtains) unless you’re in the room. Leaving the blinds open when you leave the room for a while does nothing more than allow a lot of extra heat into the room and that has but one guarantee – it slowly heats up the room.

By all means, if you like a bright room and you happen to be in there, throw open the blinds and curtains! Just don’t leave them open when no one is there to enjoy the brightness and sunlight.

Run your ceiling fans the correct way

Most people don’t realize this, but ceiling fans should run in different directions during the summer and winter. During the summer, most ceiling fans should be run on high and the blades should be moving in a counterclockwise direction.

Here’s how to make sure your fan is spinning correctly. Stand right under the fan and turn it on high. You should immediately feel a breeze. If you don’t, turn off the fan, then adjust the fan to have the blades run in the opposite direction.

Air flow is vital for improving the sense of coolness in your home, much like a breeze cools you off on a hot summer day. This leads to the next tip for reducing your cooling costs…

Raise your thermostat a bit

Most of us have a temperature that feels the most comfortable for us and that’s what we leave our thermostat at. The problem with just sticking to a default temperature, though, is that the “perfection” of that temperature has a lot to do with the humidity in your home, the direct sunlight flooding in, and the air flow as well.

Many of which you just altered with the previous two steps.

Now that you’ve made the other changes, try raising your “default” temperature a degree. This will likely not change your sense of comfort in the home, but it will reduce your energy bill because your air conditioning won’t have to kick on nearly as often. Don’t be afraid to try another degree, too. Find your new normal temperature

Turn it off at night

At night, you’re asleep. The air outside is cooler. Many people sleep directly under a ceiling fan, which keeps the air circulating. In other words, it’s the perfect time to shut off the air conditioning entirely.

This tactic (and the next one) is most easily achieved with the installation of a programmable thermostat, which makes overnight temperature adjustment automatic. At our house, the air conditioning turns off at 10 PM and turns on again at about 10 AM or so as the day is really warming up.

Turn it off during the workday, too

Similarly, don’t run your air conditioner when no one is home. For many families, this happens every weekday when both parents are out of the house and in their workplace. Just turn the A/C off when you leave, then flip it on again when you come home. If it’s really warm, run a fan near the cool air vent to help the cool air circulate.

This tactic (and the previous one) is most easily achieved with the installation of a programmable thermostat, which makes weekday temperature adjustment automatic. For us, however, this tactic doesn’t work too well since I work at home, though I do uusually turn the temperature up several degrees when I’m the only one in the house.

Add some simple shade

This can either be a short term solution – like placing an umbrella on your deck so that it blocks some sunshine from going into the house – or a long term solution, like planting a tree that will eventually shade your roof. Any effort you can make to increase the shade of the exterior of your house helps because it reduces the direct sunlight that reaches your home, which is a big factor in raising internal temperatures.

Good luck!

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

Loading Disqus Comments ...