Soft morning light and the savory smell of fried plantains fill the air. Across the Kitchen island, an open-concept, spacious floor plan unites the dining and living rooms. Sunday brunch in Hillsborough’s Corbinton Commons neighborhood is a weekly tradition for Isabel “Izzy” Piñeiro, 75, and Efrain “Frank” Piñeiro, 78.
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How to be Energy-Efficient Every Season of The Year
Seasons bring holidays a new source of joy and experiences for every family to share, but it’s not all fun when it means a spike in your energy bills. Keeping your house cool in the summer and warm in fall and winter can become quite expensive, especially if you or your family do not have energy-saving habits. Here are some tips that can make your holidays less costly:
How to keep it cool and efficient during summer?
- Getting your air conditioning unit tuned up annually before summer begins optimizes efficiency and lowers electrical consumption. Dust may clog air filters and drainage tubes and cause malfunctioning and sudden breakdowns, as well as rise the electric usage of the unit. You should also make sure that your vents are not blocked by furniture or full of dust. Licensed HVAC technicians are always the best choice to get professional and quality work done.
- You might be tempted to keep your A/C to 66° or below during the whole season, but keeping it around 72° -or higher- reduces consumption without reducing your satisfaction. Remember to raise your thermostat even higher when you’re not home or turn it off altogether (smart thermostats may prove to be a great asset).
- Proper insulation ensures hot air stays out and cool air stays in. Spotting and fixing air leaks in your home and improving attic insulation increases the efficiency of the air condition unit, resulting in lower consumption.
- Direct sunshine through your windows heats up your home and makes the A/C’s job harder. Using blinds in windows directly facing the sun (reflective and blackout drapes are good options to use) may help reduce the temperature. A long term but effective option is landscaping: trees provide shade and help reduce costs as well.
- Fans create a cooler thermal sensation, which allows you to raise your home’s thermostat and therefore reduce your consumption without sacrificing comfort. Fans allow you to raise the thermostat around 4 degrees and still be comfortable. Just remember to keep the direction of the fans counterclockwise.
- LED light bulbs are a feature that optimizes consumption in any season. They are affordable, long-lasting –less money spent in replacements-, have lower energy usage, and provide a cold source of light unlike traditional light bulbs, which turn 90% of the electrical power into heat.
- Home appliances such as dryers, ovens, stoves, dishwashers are energy-suckers per se and they generate extra heat that your air conditioning unit must fight to keep your home cool. Cooking on a grill outside or using a toaster oven or microwave are options you can consider to avoid raising the temperature of your home. Unplugging smaller appliances while not using them might also reduce consumption and heat over time. Electronic devices placed near the A/C could generate a higher thermal sensation in the unit´s thermostat and increase its energy usage, so keep your air conditioning away from other heat-producing devices.
Can you reduce your bills in fall and winter without sacrificing coziness?
- Keeping your heating system serviced is a necessary precaution. Don´t wait until it’s freezing outside to check your unit, a sudden breakdown in the middle of winter is the last thing you want. Checking filters regularly –once a month, for example- and keeping them clean prevents dust from building up. Dust creates a resistance to the airflow and makes your HVAC work harder to overcome it, which increases its energy usage.
- Insulation and sealing are crucial during cold seasons as well. Use weather stripping, foam or silicone caulking to seal gaps that let heat escape and cold air enter. This can happen in your fireplace as well; while not using your fireplace, keep the damper closed to prevent warm air from escaping through the chimney (and remember to maintain it open to reduce the risk of fire in the house). Energy-efficient fireplace grates are another option commonly available in new homes.
- Setting the temperature to 68° or lower at night and turning it back up during just a third of the day can reduce costs up to 10%. New homes with smart thermostats make this task easy and programmable from your phone, so you don´t have to worry about checking and resetting the temperature all the time to be cozy as well as energy-efficient.
- Sunlight is an additional option to keep your home warm. Open your blinds and let your windows and skylights help warm up your home. Remember to close them when the sun goes down to lock that heat up.
- Fans are not only useful to keep you cool during summer, but they can also be very useful during the cold seasons. Warm air rises while cool air tends to go down, that’s why setting your ceiling fans clockwise will push warm air down and redistribute the heat your heating systems provide, making it more efficient and keeping you cozier. The same applies to vents and air ducts covered with furniture.
- Tin foil can be placed behind your radiator –the shiny side facing it- to help reflect the heat back to your home. This is a very simple and inexpensive option that allows you to get the most out of your heating system. Insulating older water heaters –which are not often insulated unlike newer ones- can save you 7-16% in water heating costs. This applies to water pipes as well, which saves 3-4% of annual costs and increases the water temperature.
- Heating water consumes a lot of energy. Keep the water cold or warm to do dishes and laundry and you can significantly lower your energy usage. This not only lowers your bills but reduces corrosion in your pipes.
While these tips will help you lower your bills as much as they can, you may find your home still consuming high energy, and fixing the problems can consume more energy as well. New homes are fully upgraded, energy-efficient, and offer a lot of commodities with very little effort. This low-maintenance lifestyle might be all that you need so nothing keeps you from having warm winter holidays and cool summer vacations to remember.
While you´re thinking about it, check out the new energy-efficient Corbinton communities we’re building here in North Carolina. Blue Heel Development’s team members will meet with you to help you write your next story! Please check out our beautiful new home plans here or contact us to schedule a meeting!