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11 Ways to Lower Your Summer Electric Bills

Small steps can add up to big savings

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1. Defang energy vampires

Today's electronic devices, from computers to coffee makers, continue to use energy and drain power, even when they are turned off. There are two types of energy vampires: bricks and wall warts. Bricks are power plugs for computers that have a big box on the cord. A wall wart is a charger with a large plug. Both use up energy when the laptop or charger isn’t used. How much can you save by unplugging? As much as 20 percent of your electric bill, according to Duke Energy.

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2. Get a programmable thermostat

If you can let the house get a bit warmer when you're gone and cool it off when you get home, you can save as much as 20 percent from your heating and cooling bills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. You can even get thermostats that you can control remotely with your cellphone. If you're leaving your pets at home, never let the house get hotter than 80 degrees; if you have a long-haired pet, keep the house slightly cooler. And keep lamps and TVs away from the thermostat.

3. Draw the blinds during the daytime

About 76 percent of sunlight that hits your windows enters to generate heat inside your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A recent study found that 75 percent of blinds stay in the same position every day. The Energy Department says that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent, so put down the blinds when the sun is blazing.

4. If you have a ceiling fan, use it

The Energy Department says that if you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will let you raise the thermostat about four degrees (at least in those rooms that have one) in the summer. Fans that carry the Energy Star label move air 20 percent more efficiently than those that don't. In the summer, you should set ceiling fans to go counter-clockwise to blow air downward, according to Home Depot.

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5. Upgrade your appliances

Sure, that old refrigerator has been running since 1953. But it’s probably sucking up a lot of juice while it’s cooling your beer. New appliances with the Energy Star designation are more efficient than average appliances. Energy Star televisions, for example, use 3 watts or less when they are turned off, which is about 50 percent less than average. The Environmental Protection Agency keeps a list of the most energy-efficient appliances. 

6. Lower the temperature on your water heater

Hot water is a wonderful thing, but it accounts for about 18 percent of energy use. You shouldn't heat water to more than 120 degrees to prevent scalding. If your setting is higher, turn it down. And you probably don't want a steaming hot shower in July, anyway.

7. Use LED lights 

Bulbs that use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) use 75 percent less energy than comparable incandescent bulbs. They last up to 25 times longer, too. You can find them in a wide array of sizes, brightnesses and colors. And, while they are a bit more expensive than incandescent bulbs, their price has been falling as more people use them.

8. Get out of the house

Specifically, get outside and use the grill. An indoor stove can raise your temperature as much as 10 degrees. Just don't leave the door open while you're grilling. You don't want to air-condition the whole neighborhood.

9. Ask for discounts

Your electric company may offer discounts for those with low income or disabilities. It may also offer incentives to reduce your energy usage on summer days when energy demand is highest, typically between noon and 8 p.m. Florida Power & Light, for example, offers a Time of Use Rate, which charges more during peak hours and less during off-peak hours, which encourages customers to use more power in off-peak hours and less during peak hours. 

10. Use your major appliances wisely

Run full loads of laundry and use cold water when you can. Run your dishwasher only when it's full, and use air dry, rather than heated dry. If you have an electric oven (and you can't grill), use the microwave instead. And clean the lint trap on your dryer: You’ll save money and your dryer will last longer.

11. Cast a shadow on your house

There’s a reason it’s cooler in the shade. Plant trees and shrubs on the south and west sides of your house — or near your outside air conditioning unit — and you can make your cooling systems 10 percent more efficient, according to Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships.

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