Tips To Reduce Soaring Summer Electricity Bills

As heat waves blanket the country and the nation's two most populous states, New York and California, as well as other locales had been suffering from blackouts this summer, the Alliance to Save Energy calls on consumers to switch energy-intensive home tasks to off-peak hours and to otherwise use energy more efficiently to reduce soaring summer electricity bills, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and potential for blackouts or brownouts.

According to Alliance projections, average households will spend more than $5,000 on energy this year to power their homes and vehicles. The Alliance offers consumers tips that can cut home and vehicle energy bills and pollution up to 30 percent and also generate some federal tax credits:

  • Shift energy-intensive tasks, such as laundry and dishwashing, to off-peak hours -- nights, mornings, and weekends -- when the strain on the power grid from business, industry, and homes operating air conditioning simultaneously is reduced. Operate washers and dryers with full loads to get the most for your energy dollars.
  • Cooling puts the greatest stress on the power grid and summer energy bills. Maintain your air conditioning equipment with a professional "tune-up" to save you the cost and inconvenience of a breakdown during the hottest days. Clean or replace filters monthly. Consider increasing the temperature by just three degrees to decrease your energy bills -- or use a fan to circulate air so that you can increase the temperature comfortably. For optimum performance, make sure window units are sized properly.
  • Save water and energy simultaneously. Energy Star-certified clothes washers cut water and energy usage simultaneously, while getting clothes just as clean with less wear and tear. Also investigate Energy Star-certified (symbol of energy efficiency) dishwashers with soil sensors to shorten the washing cycle and clothes dryers with moisture sensors.
  • Your refrigerator runs 24 hours a day and accounts for about 10 percent of the total home electricity bill, so keep the coils clean to reduce your energy bills and extend the life of your appliance. The coils are located behind or under the fridge. Look for the Energy Star label when shopping for a new refrigerator. If all of the nation's households used the most efficient refrigerators, electricity savings would eliminate the need for some 20-30 power plants, the Alliance states.
  • Forgetful? A programmable thermostat automatically coordinates indoor climates with your daily and weekend patterns, reducing cooling bills by up to 10 percent. And you don't have to "remember" to turn the air conditioning off when you won't be home. And for a room air conditioner, install a setback timer if it doesn't already have one, so it does not run when you are not home. These things can reduce energy use and let you come home to a cool house.
  • Plug energy "leaks" with appropriate insulation, weather stripping, caulking and spectrally selective windows, glass doors and skylights. Make sure your attic and the rest of your house are well insulated. Some of these home energy-efficiency improvements can generate up to a $500 federal tax credit -- see
  • To cut your related energy bills by 30 percent, look for the Energy Star label, the symbol for energy efficiency, when shopping for room air conditioners, major appliances, lighting, home office equipment, windows, and electronics. Find retailers near you at
  • 4 for the planet. Replacing four 75-watt incandescent bulbs with 23-watt fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) that use about two-thirds less energy and last up to 10 times longer saves $190 over the life of the bulbs. If all our nation's households did the same, we'd save as much energy as is consumed by some 38 million cars in one year.
  • Light up your life -- efficiently. You can also improve your home's security and still avoid wasting money and energy when you are out by putting timers on a few lights or installing motion detectors on exterior floodlights.
  • Listen to your mother ("What do you think -- we own the electric company?!"). Turn off everything not in use: lights, TVs, computers.

Many additional tips and free resources for all types of home and vehicle energy use can be found on the Alliance's consumer Web site at English and Spanish information on the federal tax credits for homes and vehicles is available at

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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