Save Energy to Save Money
For more detailed information, download our brochure How to Control Your Electric Bill.
During the summer, demand for electricity is at its highest. Save energy in the summer to reduce SMECO's load and all of our customer-members will save.
Reducing Energy Costs in Hot Weather
Summer weather will affect energy bills. For customer-members who want to save money, the following information will help reduce energy use when the weather is warm.
- Cooling systems account for a significant portion of a residential customer's energy use, so set your thermostat at 78 degrees. When going on vacation, turn off your cooling system or set your thermostat to a higher temperature.
- Use ceiling fans and portable fans to circulate air in your home.
- Make sure to clean or replace the filters on your cooling system monthly.
- Make sure you have adequate attic insulation to keep your home cool.
- Keep window blinds and curtains closed during the day to block sunlight.
- Keep exterior doors and windows closed to keep the cool air in.
- Use bathroom exhaust fans to pull warm air and humidity out of the bathroom.
- Keep leaves and grass away from the outdoor unit of your heat pump or air conditioner.
- Have your cooling system professionally serviced on a regular basis to keep it operating at its peak efficiency.
- Use a timer for your pool pump so it doesn't run 24 hours a day.
- Cooking outdoors will keep your home cool and save electricity.
- Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms.
- Not only do compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) consume less energy than incandescent light bulbs, they also produce less heat so your air conditioning does not have to work as hard.
- When going on vacation, shut off your water heater and disconnect appliances that will be unused during your absence. You can either unplug the appliances or switch off the surge protectors. TVs and cable/satellite converter boxes can draw or "leak" as much as 40 watts an hour even when switched off. You can also unplug these items when not in use even when you are at home.
- Join SMECO CoolSentry, our load management program, and receive a programmable thermostat and up to $50 in annual electric bill credits.
- Get a Quick Home Energy Check-up to learn how you can make your house more energy efficient.
Reducing Energy Costs in Cold Weather
Cold weather directly translates into higher energy usage, which results in higher energy bills. For customer-members who want to save money, the following information will help reduce energy use when the weather is cold.
- Heating systems account for a significant portion of a residential customer's energy use, so wear warm clothes inside and turn down the thermostat, which SMECO recommends setting at 68 degrees.
- Make sure to clean or replace the filters on your heating system monthly.
- Do not set your heat pump to run in emergency heat mode or auxiliary heat mode, because the resistance heat elements cost more to operate.
- Do not change your heat pump thermostat manually more than two degrees at a time. Find the coolest comfortable setting and leave it there. Moving the thermostat setting up by more than two degrees manually may cause your auxiliary heat to come on, which costs more to run.
- Keep exterior doors and windows closed.
- Keep window blinds and curtains open during the day to let in sunlight, but close them at night to keep cold air out.
- Use bathroom exhaust fans only when needed. They pull warm air and humidity out of the house.
- Keep snow and leaves away from the outdoor unit of your heat pump.
- Have your heating system professionally serviced on a regular basis to keep it operating at its peak efficiency.
Items that cost nothing to do.
Do you have an extra refrigerator or freezer that is really not needed? Unplug it. Older models can cost between $10 and $20 per month to operate. The cost is significantly higher if the refrigerator or freezer is in a garage or shed.
Are there a lot of lights left on when not needed? Turn them off. A single 100-watt incandescent bulb uses $1.65 worth of electricity each month. If you leave many lights on for long periods of time, the cost adds up quickly.
Are you running your furnace fan continuously? The fan in a large oil furnace fan can easily consume $50 of electricity in a month if running 24/7. Switch the fan to the "Auto" setting and significantly reduce this amount.
If you have a waterbed, do you make the bed after you wake up? Placing a comforter on a waterbed can save about $3.65 each month.
Do you leave your computer on continuously? Computers use relatively little power, but most people can save several dollars a month by turning off their computers and related equipment when not in use.
Do you take really long showers? Most people don't realize that the cost of hot water is about 25 percent of their energy bill. Shortening showers from 10 minutes to 5 minutes can save about $5 per month.
Do you wash clothes in hot water? If you can switch to cold water and wash one load a day, you could save about $16 each month.
Adjusting your thermostat can bring substantial savings. During the winter, keeping your thermostat set at 68 degrees (instead of 72 degrees) can decrease your heating costs by about 21 percent. During the summer, keeping your thermostat set at 78 degrees (instead of 72 degrees) can decrease cooling costs by about 40 percent. For an average four-ton heat pump or air conditioner, these strategies can save about $170 during the winter and $130 during the summer.
A small space heater left on the high setting can consume about $100 in a month if left on continuously, so use it only when needed. Space heaters are effective at providing some heat in an area but if left on for long periods of time can really gobble up electricity!
If you have electric baseboard heaters the bad news is that they are about the most expensive form of heat. The good news is that they can be easily turned off or turned down in rooms where heat is not needed.
The sun's energy is free! Take advantage of this free energy by opening window shades on sunny days on south facing glass in the winter. In the summer do the opposite: close shades and blinds to keep out the sun's energy.
When drying clothes, use your dryer's automatic drying feature (if there is one) instead of time drying. Be sure that you dryer vent is not clogged and remember that the sun will dry your clothes for free!
Items that cost a little and are easy to do.
Make sure your heating system operates efficiently. The most important things you can do as a homeowner are changing your filters and making sure your outdoor unit is not blocked by leaves, debris and snow. A dirty filter on a heat pump can use excess auxiliary heat and drive up your electric bill. If you suspect that your system is not working properly, have it checked by a professional! Sign up for the Co-op's Quick Home Energy Check-up. SMECO also offers tips for troubleshooting your heat pump.
Is your thermostat saving you money? SMECO strongly recommends a programmable thermostat for homeowners who have oil, gas, and electric furnaces and who are away during the day. Aggressive settings might save 10 percent to 30 percent on heating bills. For homeowners with heat pumps, programmable thermostats are a good idea but savings are much more modest. Programmable thermostats are also a good idea for people who leave the house during the day during the summer and can tolerate a higher thermostat setting for their heat pump or air conditioner while they are away. Savings can range from 10 percent to 30 percent depending on the settings. Sign up for SMECO CoolSentry and receive a free programmable thermostat and up to $50 in credits on your electric bill.
Water heating is usually the second largest energy consumer in the home. Inexpensive ways to reduce hot water consumption include installing low flow showerheads, turning down the temperature on the water heater to 120 degrees, and insulating the hot water tank. The cost savings will vary but could easily add up to $16 per month for a family of four.
Do you use timers for appliances such as pool pumps, lights, and block heaters? A timer simply turns an appliance on and off and saves money by reducing its run time. There are many applications for timers. A timer for your bathroom fan can prevent the fan from running all day and sucking all the warm air or cool air out of your house. See the chart below for other ways to use appliance timers.
|Device ||Daily run time ||Savings |
|Pool pump, |
|12 hours |
instead of 24 hours
|Block heater, |
|2 hours |
instead of 12 hours
|Quartz floodlight, |
|4 hours |
instead of 12 hours
Do you use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)? Compact fluorescents normally last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. While most homes use relatively little electricity for lighting, a compact fluorescent bulb can save you $45 in purchase and operating costs over the bulb's lifetime. SMECO offers discounts on CFLs through participating retailers.
Items that require investment and planning.
When you shop for a new appliance do you look for ENERGY STAR appliances? The ENERGY STAR label makes it easy to determine if an appliance is energy efficient. You can even build a new ENERGY STAR home that will save you about 30 percent on your utility costs. SMECO offers rebates on refrigerators and clothes washers that carry the ENERGY STAR label.
Replacement windows are high on the list of many owners of older homes. Although replacing windows is usually very expensive and takes a long time to pay back in energy costs, many people still make window replacement a high priority. Be sure to make a wise energy choice with windows by understanding key items such as Low-E glass, U-value, shading coefficient, and the NFRC label.
When buying new heating and air conditioning equipment, higher efficiency numbers mean lower operating costs. For heat pumps be sure to look at both the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) and the Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF). For fossil fuel appliances be sure to compare the Annual Fuel Utilitization Index (AFUE). But the equipment is usually only half the story. Most heating and cooling equipment relies on ducts to carry the warm or cool air to each room. Keeping your ducts insulated and free of leaks will save you money. SMECO offers rebates on air conditioners and heat pumps through participating contractors.
The greatest loss of heat in many homes is through excessive leakiness and draftiness, and usually older homes are the most leaky. The most effective way to identify leaks is through a blower door test of your home. SMECO provides blower door testing through our ENERGY STAR program. Keep in mind that it is much easier and more effective to seal a home tight while a home is being built. There are many resources available to help guide in effectively sealing and tightening a home if you wish to do it yourself.
Do you have adequate insulation levels in your home? The Department of Energy has specific recommendations for insulation. It's relatively easy to insulate an attic or basement, a little more difficult to insulate a crawlspace, and much more difficult to insulate existing walls.
Five good Web sites for more information