Reduce Your Summer Electric Bill
Consumer Tips from the
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
Seven steps to a lower electric bill:
1. Use your air conditioner wisely. Maintain it properly.
2. Use energy efficient light bulbs.
3. Make sure your home has proper insulation.
4. Participate in your utility's direct load control program, if available.
5. Cut down on your energy leaks.
6. Know that landscaping can help.
7. Remember the simple steps that add up to savings.
For most consumers, electric bills increase in the summer because of increased air conditioner use. While consumers can save money and help the environment year-round by taking simple steps to use energy more wisely, doing so in the summer can make an even bigger difference on electric bills.
In addition to following these tips, a home energy audit can help significantly. Many electric utilities offer energy audits at no additional charge along with online audits on their websites.
Set the thermostat at the highest comfortable temperature and dress appropriately.
When leaving your home for a few hours or going to bed at night, raise the thermostat a few degrees.
- Programmable thermostats that do this automatically can be purchased for as little as $30.
Keep lamps, TVs and other heat-generating appliances away from the thermostat. Minimize their use on especially hot days.
Complement your air conditioner by using fans.
- Ceiling fans, in particular, can greatly increase air circulation and comfort. But turn them off in unoccupied rooms, and set them to turn counter-clockwise during the summer.
- While a fan does use electricity, it uses much less than an air conditioner.
Make sure your ductwork is properly sealed.
Older air conditioners and those that are not maintained may run less efficiently, waste more energy and cost you more money.
For proper maintenance:
- Change the filter regularly
- Keep vents clean
- Avoid blocking the intake vents
- Dust the thermostat regularly
- Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines
If you use exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen, use them sparingly. Exhaust fans can pull large amounts of cooled or heated air from your home very quickly.
Lighting technology has changed dramatically in recent years, with new federal lighting standards taking effect in 2012. Newer types of light bulbs can save money in the long run because of their low electricity use and extra long life.
Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs use about 25 percent of the electricity used by traditional incandescent bulbs, but create the same amount of light. They also last ten times longer, on average.
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are even more efficient. They use just 20 to 25 percent of the electricity needed for incandescent bulbs, according to the US Department of Energy. LEDs may also last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
CFL bulbs - and LEDs, especially - create very little heat compared to incandescent bulbs, reducing the amount of work required of your air conditioner.
When shopping for LEDs or CFL bulbs, look at the lumens instead of watts. Lumens measure a bulb’s brightness.
- For example, a 100-watt incandescent bulb produces about 1,600 lumens.
- A 20-watt LED also produces about 1,600 lumens.
Because they contain small amounts of mercury, used CFL bulbs should be recycled. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) offers more information on CFL bulb disposal and how to properly clean up a broken CFL bulb.
Make sure the attic, all exterior walls and floors are properly insulated, along with basements or crawl spaces (if you have them).
Remember that attic insulation can settle over time, reducing its effectiveness.
Make sure your insulation carries the proper rating for the region you live in.
- For houses in Indiana, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends ratings between R-38 and R-49 in ceilings and between R-18 and R-22 in walls.
- More information is available at hardware stores, from the Department of Energy’s
Insulation Fact Sheet, and from the Insulation Contractors Association of America.
When using a window air conditioner, eliminate air leaks between the air conditioner and window with foam insulation or weather stripping.
Check weather stripping, caulking and seals around doors and windows. Even a small crack or hole can lead to the same air loss as an open window.
Plastic sheeting is a low-cost way to make windows more energy efficient.
If you have a fireplace, close the damper when not in use.
Information on tax credits for energy efficiency is available from the Indiana Department of Energy Development (OED).
These programs offer bill credits in exchange for allowing the utility to install a switch on your air conditioner or electric water heater. The utility can turn off or "cycle" the appliances for brief periods during peak demand times.
The cycling results in little or no discomfort or inconvenience, but helps the utility ensure reliable service and reduce pollution. It also helps keep rates down by delaying the need to build new power plants or buy additional power.
Some Indiana electric utilities currently offer these programs. See the OUCC's fact sheet on Direct Load Control programs for more information.
Turn off computers, monitors and other home electronics (including TVs, VCRs and stereos) when you are not using them.
Check the power management settings on your home computer and consider using the “hibernate” or “standby” mode if you will be away from it for a short time.
Be aware that big-screen TVs, including plasma and LCD models, typically use much more power than traditional tube TVs. TV converter boxes, DVD players, digital photo frames, and other new electronic devices may use more energy than you realize. Know that any appliance with a digital clock is still using power even when turned off.
Unplug chargers for cell phones, rechargeable batteries, other electronic devices and small appliances when you are not using them. Those devices still use power when plugged in, even if not actually in use. Another option is to plug them into a power strip or advanced power strip, and then turn the power strip off except when necessary.
Air conditioners work more efficiently when shaded by trees or shrubs. However, make sure trees and shrubs do not block the airflow.
By planting deciduous trees on the west and south sides of your yard, you can shade your home from sunlight during the hottest parts of the day. Because these trees lose their leaves in the fall, winter sunlight will reach the building, helping to keep it warm.
Rocks and cement hold and radiate heat.
Close storm windows and doors to keep cool air in.
Close blinds, shades and draperies facing the sun to keep heat out.
White blinds, shades and curtains reflect sunlight (dark colors absorb it).
Consider reflective films for windows that face south.
Turn off all unnecessary lights.
Use a timer if you are planning to be away from home and want to have lights turned on for security reasons. On very hot days, minimize the use of ovens, stoves, washers, dryers and other appliances that generate heat.
On days when the temperature reaches 90 degrees or more, it is best to wait until after 6:00 pm before cooking, doing laundry or washing dishes.
Microwave ovens, pressure cookers and outdoor grills use less energy than regular stoves and ovens.
Read the manuals for your home appliances. They may offer more specific instructions for saving energy.
Look for energy efficient appliances when shopping. Products with the Energy Star label operate well above minimum energy efficiency standards.
If your refrigerator was manufactured before July 2001, it may not be as efficient as newer models. The same goes for electric and natural gas water heaters made before January 2004, when new federal efficiency standards went into effect.
Think twice before putting an old refrigerator or freezer in the garage or on the porch. Older appliances are less efficient and if placed outside, will have to work even harder to keep food cold on hot days.
Make sure the door gaskets on freezers and refrigerators fit tightly. If you close the door on a dollar bill and the bill can easily be pulled out, the appliance is wasting energy. If your refrigerator is not frost-free, defrost it regularly.
Clean or vacuum the coils on your refrigerator at least twice a year.
Reduce the thermostat on your electric (or gas) water heater.
Maintain your water heater by draining the sediment at least once a year.
Use the right amount of detergent when doing laundry. Using too much detergent may waste energy.
Wash only full loads of clothing, but don’t overload the machine.
Front-loading washing machines are much more efficient than traditional models.
Make sure your clothes dryer’s venting system is working properly.
Install a water-efficient showerhead. It will save water and also save the energy needed to heat the water.
Most Indiana electric utilities offer free home energy analyses and energy efficiency kits that can help consumers reduce bills even more. In addition, some utilities offer financial assistance for low-income consumers. To learn more, contact your utility.
Income-eligible consumers can also receive winter heating and limited summer cooling assistance from the state’s Energy Assistance Program. For more information, call 1-800-382-9895.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is the state agency that represents utility consumer interests before regulatory and legal bodies. To learn more, visit www.IN.gov/OUCC.
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Voice/TDD: (317) 232-2494
Fax: (317) 232-5923
You may also be interested in...