How to Save Watts at Home - Stay Cool in the Heat

Your home is a living breathing system. Just as you need food and shelter, your home uses inputs like electricity, water and natural solar warmth to produce a life-sustaining residence. You can do many things to increase your home’s energy efficiency and save you money.

According to Consumer Reports, most people are taking some steps towards energy efficiency. In their October 2010 issue they report that a study showed 81% of those surveyed bought energy-efficient light bulbs, 44% purchased an Energy Star appliance, and 43% caulked their windows and doors, A third to a quarter of those surveyed installed energy-efficient windows or doors, installed insulation, upgraded to an energy-efficient heating or cooling system or bought a high efficiency water heater. The report found that 77% of those surveyed took these actions to lower energy costs. Energy efficiency works.

Three actions drive energy efficiency

- Using less power, for example use a solar powered attic fan to cool your attic and relieve the demand on your air conditioner.

- Use power more efficiently; buy Energy Savers rated appliances to get the most bang for your electricity buck.

- Reduce the need for power - one important power saver is to improve your home's insulation, to eliminate drafts warming your cooled air during summer month and losing heat in winter months. The common wisdom among those working in the home energy efficiency field is to insulate first, then put in
upgrades second when you know your house is no longer leaking cooled or heated air.

Summer Power Savings

Of course the best way to save money and electricity in the summer would be to do without an air conditioner, but that is often impractical, and even a health hazard in many areas of the US. If you want your air conditioning to be as effective as possible, you will want to eliminate air leaks, reducing unnecessary drain on the machine’s cooling power.

Eliminate Air Leaks: If air leaks from your window frames your air conditioner will be pushing cold air out of the house, effectively failing to ever completely cool your room. Use a candle to find air leaks, while taking care to contain the flame; bring the candle near your window frame and look for signs of a draft. Places where air leaks need to be caulked. When you no longer have air leaking from your windows, check your doors the same way. Put in caulk or weather stripping where the candle shows you an air flow from or through the door frame. Be sure that your ducts do not leak. Use mastic sealant or metal tape to seal vent and register locations where they meet walls, ceilings and floors. Then wrap them in insulation.

Reduce Air Conditioner Demand: Your attic can get close to 150 degrees in the summer. That heat will radiate through your ceilings and make your air conditioner's job that much more difficult. To cool your attic without using more electricity, you can install a solar powered attic fan which will use the sun's light to create a draft, blowing the heat out of the attic and drawing cooler outdoor air into the attic through your roof's vents. The cooler attic air will prevent condensation and the resultant mold. The rooms in the rest of your home will be more comfortable, and your air conditioner will have a longer life with lower energy costs.

- Clean and change the filters in your air conditioner and HVAC system. Dirty filters make the system work harder, wasting energy and money.

- Ease the strain on your exterior air conditioner by shading it with bushes or a tree.

- Avoid using an air conditioner that is too large for the space to be cooled. An oversize machine will waste energy and be less effective in removing humidity. The US EPA’s Energy Star program recommends the following air conditioner sizes according to a room’s square footage:

Air Conditioning Capacity by Size of Room to Be Cooled:

     Area To Be Cooled (sq. feet)  BTU/hr Capacity 
       100 up to  150                            5,000
       150 up to  250                            6,000
       250 up to  300                            7,000
       300 up to  350                            8,000
       350 up to  400                            9,000
       400 up to  450                           10,000
       450 up to  550                           12,000
       550 up to  700                           14,000
       700 up to 1,000                         18,000
     1,000 up to 1,200                        21,000
     1,200 up to 1,400                        23,000
     1,400 up to 1,500                        24,000
     1,500 up to 2,000                        30,000
     2,000 up to 2,500                        34,000

More Ways to Cool Your House in the Summer

- Use a ceiling fan to create a breeze. The fan, while not actually cooling the room, will make you more comfortable, and can be turned off when you're not in the room without increasing warmth.

-Use shades effectively. Close curtains and shades when you are leaving the house, and try to keep the bright light of warmer days out of the house. Awnings over your windows can be very effective in preventing the sun’s heat from entering your rooms.

-Use plants to provide shade- indoor plants such as container trees in front of sunny windows can provide more shade where the sun streams in. Shade-producing plants for your east- and west-facing windows will help keep the heat out.

Money-Saving Energy Efficiency Tips to Come

Many choices face you when you decide to make your home more energy efficient. In the weeks and months to come Saving Watts at Home will present Home Energy Efficiency tips, covering ways can get greater energy efficiency from your attics and roof, bathroom, kitchen, fans and ventilation, lighting, windows, programmable thermostats, heating and cooling systems, home office and home electronics, and tips for the summer, fall, winter and spring seasons. You will read here about how renters can save energy, how you can use the the Energy Star appliance program, and other helpful information helping you to cut your electricity bill by Saving Watts at Home.

You'll like the money-saving and energy-conserving household goods at Use the sign-up form today to get news about deals and new energy-efficient products for the home.

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I am a Seattle-based writer. Energy efficiency and the achievement of human potential are my goals. I have worked as a legislative aide and a database manager, and recently started building a money- and energy-saving household goods online store featuring sensible and affordable home environment solutions including ENERGY STAR qualified products. Contact: Twitter: @Greenbespoke @SaveWattsatHome