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(ARA) - Summer can be brutal on utility bills and a major drain for pocketbooks, but they don't have to be.
During the hottest months of the year, water is wasted due to over irrigation, and air conditioning systems are forced to run longer to keep indoor temperatures cool. While scorching temperatures can push water and energy consumption to its limits, there are ways to consume less and save more.
"Reducing water and energy consumption isn't as difficult as many think," says Rhonda Hills of Kudzu.com, an online resource for homeowners looking for expert home advice. "Even minor changes in behavior and small investments in energy-conscious materials can make a big difference."
The home experts at Kudzu.com recommend the following actions to provide short-term and long-term relief as the mercury rises.
Install a soil or rain sensor to conserve water. Soil sensors monitor the soil's moisture content and allow sprinklers to operate only when water is needed. Rain sensors detect precipitation and shut off sprinklers if it is raining. Both devices are upgrades from traditional timers and can greatly reduce water usage.
Seal openings around windows and doors. Cracks around windows and doors are a source of significant energy loss. The U.S. Department of Energy reports more than 20 percent of the air entering and exiting the home does so around windows and doors. Use caulk and weather stripping to seal around these vulnerable areas.
Replace old windows. Windows are a major source of energy loss in most homes. Old, single-paned windows are inefficient and will allow radiant heat from the sun to increase indoor temperatures. Replacing old windows with Energy Star-rated windows can save 7 to 15 percent on energy bills and increase comfort within the home.
Use ceiling fans to circulate air. Ceiling fans do not reduce indoor temperatures, but they can make the home feel more comfortable. Fans work by circulating air across the skin and creating a wind chill effect which makes inhabitants feel cooler. It's been proven that using a fan can allow homeowners to turn up their thermostat by 4 degrees with no drop in comfort level. Ensure the fan's blades are turning counterclockwise during the summer to maximize the wind chill effect.
Increase attic insulation. Adding insulation to a home is one of the fastest ways to reduce energy consumption. More than 10 percent of the average utility bill goes to cooling a home, and insulation can help significantly reduce the frequency and duration the air conditioning system is running. Only 20 percent of homes constructed prior to 1980 are properly insulated.
Replace incandescent bulbs. Light bulbs produce light, and they also produce heat as a byproduct. Only about 10 percent of the energy consumed by a traditional light bulb is used to create light. The remainder of the energy becomes heat. By switching to Energy Star-rated lighting, homeowners can consume less electricity and produce less heat within their homes.