7 secrets to summer energy efficiency

May 17, 2012

Hot temperatures and high humidity are on the way for much of the country this summer, with dry and hot temperatures in the West. Getting your home in order now for summer can prevent appliance breakdowns and having to call for help when contractors are the busiest. Summer energy efficiency depends upon maintaining the thermal envelope that protects your home from the elements.

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The thermal envelope is the sum performance of doors, windows and insulation when outdoor temperatures begin to climb. Let's examine some of the ways you can ensure a snug, efficient envelope through the bright, summer days:

1. Change your air filters, and tune up your AC system. The Department of Energy recommends that homeowners order up AC service to tighten electrical connections, lubricate moving parts, clean evaporator coils, check blower components and refrigerant levels.

2. Buy and set up awnings. Outdoor shades -- especially on south-facing walls -- can greatly impact how much heat hits your windows. The combination of awnings, well-paced shade trees or patio covers can reduce solar heat gain, of prime importance for retaining cool indoor temperatures.

3. Add solar screens. The Saturn Energy Blog recommends the new green generation of solar screens that can absorb 65 to 70 percent of solar heat. The added plus is that screens protect your furniture, carpets and curtains from drying or color-fading. They run $4 to $7 per square foot, installed.

4. Change to light drapes. Light-colored drapes made from opaque fabrics allow sunlight in while reflecting heat.

5. Upgrade to energy-efficient windows. You can get in ahead of the fair-weather rush for window replacements by getting it done early. New window prices vary based on energy-efficient coatings, glazing and frames. Spectrally selective low-e glass matched to your climate reduces solar heat gain without blocking your view. It's one window cost that pays dividends. Find licensed, bonded and insured* window installers from our network of pre-screened, certified contractors by filling out a form on this site.

6. Install an energy-efficient AC system. While this can be a pricey outlay, ENERGY STAR-rated cooling equipment can save money on your cooling bills while adding value to your home. According to ENERGY STAR, you'll recoup $700 in utility savings with a qualified system over the life of the unit if you live in a hot and muggy climate.

7. Inspect and set your thermostat. Your home won't cool efficiently if the thermostat is calibrated incorrectly. Working the unit harder is not working it economically -- and you could be over-stressing the system. Programmable thermostats give you the most sustained and consistent control over the amount of energy you use. Set it to cool down your house when you're on the way home from work.

Think of your thermal envelope as your front line of defense against sweltering heat, humidity and high energy bills; spring is the best time of year to ensure its integrity.

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