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10 Easy Tips To Lower Your Electric Bill

September 27, 2012 

Beating the heat this summer can be an expensive proposition as temperatures soar into 100’s across Texas.

Here’s how to keep cool and keep electricity bills manageable:

Arrange an HVAC inspection. Hiring a certified technician for an annual check of your home’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system is a smart move. Leaking ducts, for example, could reduce energy efficiency by up to 20%. Inspections usually cost between $50 to $100, but that could easily be offset by the energy savings over time.

Keep it clean. Swap out your A/C’s air filters every month. Dirt and dust hinder air flow, reducing efficiency.

Program the thermostat. Give the air conditioner a break during the work day. Shifting the settings to allow higher daytime temperatures could cut the average household s electric bill by $180 a year, according to Energy Star.

Seek out incentives on appliances. Investing in a new energy-efficient unit can cut long-term bills — and be cheaper upfront, too. Through the end of 2010, qualifying central air conditioners are eligible for a federal tax credit of 30% of the cost, including installation, up to a total of $1,500 for all projects. Plenty of states also still have rebates available under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A Maine resident, for example, can get $100 back on a qualifying central air conditioner, while Georgia offers $30 for room units and $99 on central units. Check for other government and utility deals in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Seal up the house. Cooled air can leak through cracks along window and door frames. Invest in some caulk and weather-stripping to plug up these drafts. A home that is properly insulated and sealed improves energy efficiency by up to 20% year-round. (Insulation materials are also eligible for the 30% energy efficiency federal tax credit, up to $1,500 for all improvements combined.)

Avoid chores. The hotter the space, the harder an air conditioner must work to keep things cool. Limit the use of heat-generating appliances such as the oven, dishwasher and clothes dryer during the daytime hours when temperatures are hottest, says Steve Rosenstock, manager of energy solutions for the Edison Electric Institute, an industry group. “That just makes more of a load for your air conditioner,  he says.

Change light bulbs. Swapping incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents can cut a home electric bill, Kweller says. Switching one incandescent for a CFL saves $35 in energy costs over the projected 10-year life of the bulb. Not only do CFLs use less energy than conventional bulbs, but they also generate less heat.

Close the blinds. Rooms get hotter without shades or curtains to block the sunlight, especially with south- and west-facing windows. Put this idea to work more effectively with insulated window treatments.

Use fans. A breeze makes the room feel a few degrees cooler. Just be sure to turn it off when leaving. “Fans cool people, not rooms,” Kweller says.

Unplug. Gadgets like a cellphone charger or microwave suck energy — and generate heat — as long as they’re attached to a power source. Standby power for appliances not in use typically accounts for 5% to 10% of residential electricity use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Plug those devices into a power strip that can be turned off when not in use.