Increase energy efficiency to save money this summer

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published June 30, 2015

 Check air conditioning units regularly to make sure they stay free of leaves and debris.

Check air conditioning units regularly to make sure they stay free of leaves and debris.

With summer heating up, local experts offered advice to save money on energy bills by maximizing efficiency in the home.

“There’s a lot of very simple measures to be more energy-efficient that don’t have to cost a lot of money,” Consumers Energy spokeswoman Deb Dodd said. “You don’t necessarily have to buy new windows or (energy-efficient appliances).”

One measure, Dodd said, is a programmable thermostat, which can reduce air conditioning costs while a home is unoccupied.

“We recommend that you should set your thermostat to 78 (degrees) while at home, and higher when you’re away, but it depends on your personal preference,” Dodd said.

Another easy tip, she said, is for those with central air conditioning to make sure the unit is the right size to cool the desired area and to clear on a regular basis any type of debris or leaves that get sucked into the unit.

“Mine is right off my deck, and I check it a couple times a week because it draws stuff up into it,” Dodd said.

She added that closing the doors and registers in rooms that regularly go unused also saves on energy bills, as well as making sure that furniture, drapes and other household items do not obscure vents.

“I have a dog that happens to like to lay on heating and cooling registers,” she said. “By covering them up, it can take away from your energy efficiency.”

Timing is also a key element to maximizing energy efficiency, Dodd said. She recommended using washers, dryers, dishwashers and especially stoves either earlier in the morning or during the evening, since they give off heat and peak air conditioning hours take place during the middle of the day.

“Ceiling fans and plug-in fans can also help keep air moving and make it feel cooler in an area,” she said. “Obviously, we recommend windows that are energy-efficient, but you can also use drapes. They prevent a loss of heat in the winter and also insulate against heat in the summer.”

Michael Hinton Jr., with Mike’s Heating and Cooling in Shelby Township, recommended getting annual tuneups on air conditioners. The most common problems with air conditioners, in his experience, are a lack of maintenance and dirty filters.

“(Annual tuneups) will ensure that (air conditioners are) operating at their maximum potential, and now — the beginning of summer — is the perfect time (to do a tuneup),” Hinton said. “The main thing with an air conditioner is to turn it on and leave it on. Turning it on and off uses more energy.”

He also recommended not opening windows, although many are tempted to do so during cool summer nights, because the humidity seeps in and makes air conditioners work harder.

The average life span of an air conditioner is approximately 15 years, Hinton said, although some last longer and newer models are much more efficient.

Consumers Energy has incentives to become more energy-efficient. Consumers Energy offers rebates on a wide variety of products, including lighting, heating and cooling, insulation, windows, water heaters, and more. To find more information, visit www.consumersenergy.com/eeprograms. For other inquiries, call Consumers Energy toll-free at (800) 477-5050.