(ARA) - Cooling a home during the summer with a window air conditioner can account for nearly 50 percent of an average homeowner's utility bill. In the hottest regions of the country, cooling off with central air can generate up to 70 percent of your home's utility bill.
There are several ways to curb your summer electricity use. Turn up the thermostat by one degree during warm weather. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you can save up to 3 percent on your summer energy bill for every degree you raise your thermostat for 24 hours. Set your thermostat between 72 and 78 degrees. Each degree setting below 78 will increase your electricity use by as much as 4 percent.
To further reduce your home's cooling costs, make sure your air conditioning unit is running at peak performance, replace the HVAC filter at least every three months or as needed, turn on ceiling fans and make sure they are blowing down (not up), open windows during cooler evening hours, close curtains and blinds where sunlight radiates heat into the home, and seal all air leaks that let cool air escape outside.
If you like do-it-yourself home improvement projects, installing a radiant barrier in your attic is one of the most effective energy-saving projects that's sure to help you save precious dollars. What's more, you can receive a 10 percent tax credit -- up to $500 -- from the government.
A radiant barrier works in your home similar to the way a reflective foil car shade works in your car. Just as a car shade keeps the interior of an auto cooler when it's parked in the sun, radiant barriers keep your home's interior cooler when installed in your attic, where the sun's radiant energy is absorbed.
An attic radiant barrier is a safe, proven building material for reducing the strain on a home's air conditioner. And that leads to significant energy savings. When you can spend a few hours over a weekend and complete a project that saves money month after month, it's hard to ignore the benefits.
Professionals in the construction, roofing, energy and heating and cooling industries have long known the benefits of installing a radiant barrier, says Rick Jordan of EcoRite Products, a major radiant barrier manufacturer. Only recently have products been manufactured specifically for the DIY installer market.
Radiant barriers reduce the radiant heat gain that permeates a home when the sun beats down on it. Studies on installed radiant barrier products show attic temperatures are typically reduced up to 30 percent during the summer months, which can translate to a 30-degree heat reduction on hot summer days. In fact, a radiant barrier is most effective in the summer months as it dramatically reduces the workload on your air conditioning unit. In general, installing a radiant barrier can help homeowners reduce air conditioner use and save as much as 20 percent on electrical bills.