Energy Savings for the Summer Months

As the warmer months approach, there are many actions you can take around you home to maximize your energy savings, offsetting those already high utility bills while still maintaining a cool house. Below I’ll outline a few steps you should consider now before the mercury begins to climb!

Save Energy by using LED Lights

One of my personal favorite energy saving techniques is to replace those old incandescent lightbulbs with LED. LED lights consume MUCH less power than their predecessors all while producing super high quality light. Common LED lightbulbs use as little as 5 to 8 watts compared to incandescent bulbs that use between 40 and 75 watts. If you’re wonder exactly how that translates to the utility bill, or you want to learn about other benefits of LED lights, check out this awesome post! LED Lights for Energy Savings! If you don’t have time for the deep-dive, just know that investing in LED lights will instantly reduce your power bill.

Replace your HVAC Filters

No matter the type of air conditioner you have in your home, it has some sort of filter that needs to be replaced or cleaned on a regular basis to ensure efficient operation. In common central A/C systems, there is one and sometimes two or more filters on the return air (suction) side of the air handler. They may be located on the ceiling or on a wall in your home, behind a louvered door or hatch. These filters should be replaced regularly, as often as every 30 days to keep your A/C running efficiently.

As dust accumulates on the filter, the airflow back to the air handler is reduced, in turn reducing the amount of heat transfer that the system is capable of per unit of time. This means your A/C’s compressor will be working harder (using more energy) to provide the same amount of cooling. While filters may be easy to overlook, your power bill will be VERY noticeable when your A/C is consuming much more power. If you want to get a better understanding of exactly how much power your HVAC system uses and why these energy savings ideas are so important, take a look at Keeping Your House Cool in the Summer!

Replace Weather Stripping for Energy Savings

Lots of energy is wasted in the summer months due to leaky doors and windows. As I noted in the last section, losses related to your air conditioner will cost you dearly in the long run, this is no different. When you set your thermostat to 70° F in the summer time, your A/C is removing the heat in your home’s air via a vapor compression cycle.

Your A/C and Energy Savings

With all of this A/C talk, I’d like to explain exactly how it cools your home and why it costs money to do so.


In order to take the heat from within your home and move it outside, power must be added to the system (your A/C in this case) because heat wants to flow the other way. The second law of thermodynamics says that heat wants to move from the hot source to the cold source. We’re doing the opposite here so it takes extra power!

Refrigeration Cycle

The A/C’s compressor (which is the appliance we provide power to) compresses refrigerant in a sealed system. When the refrigerant gets to the compressor, it has already picked up heat from your air via the evaporator. After compression to vapor state, it releases that SAME heat to the outdoors through a state change (vapor to liquid) inside of the condensing coil. The now liquid refrigerant travels through an expansion valve and then back to the evaporator where it picks up MORE of the heat from your home’s air.  

This image describes the stages of the refrigeration cycle (vapor compression cycle)

Why this matters (and why you had to read about thermodynamics!)

Now, imagine this A/C has been working very hard to reduce your indoor temperature to 70°. It finally gets to that temperature and turns off – yay! No more power consumption! But then you open the front door and a bunch of warm air rushes in – A/C comes back on and runs until its 70° again.

The cost of ignoring science

Leaky doors and windows may not seam like a huge deal because you can barely notice the outdoor air seeping in. You may not notice at all! But in reality, many small leaks due to poor weather stripping can add up to the equivalent of leaving one door open all day. In a prior post I broke down the cost to run a 3 ton air conditioner for 1 month (roughly $100). If your leaky doors and windows add up to 10% energy loss, you can directly equate that to losing $10 per month!

Replace Doors and Windows

If new weather stripping just doesn’t get the job done, you may need to think about replacing doors and windows in your home. This is a daunting reality for many because of the high cost of windows and doors. What is even worse is thecost of having someone install them! Because of this, I take an approach based in the reality of my life – I do it myself! I know not everyone is in a position to DIY a front door or a window, but I’m willing to bet more there are many of you that have never given yourself a chance. I believe in you! Either way, replacing doors and windows will lead to an instant energy savings which translates to money in your pocket!

Attic Insulation for Energy Savings

Another super important energy saving feature of a home is insulation. Most homes have insulation in the exterior walls and in the attic (on top of your ceiling). The attic insulation plays a huge roll in keeping that nice cool air in your house from sapping the energy out of the warm outside air, and kicking your A/C on. Take a look at your attic insulation if you haven’t done so in the past. Over time it tends to compress under it’s own weight and in turn loses it’s ability to insulate. Many homes have blown in insulation in attic – you can hire a company to replace this or you can rent a machine and DIY! Either way, this is a crucial factor when it comes to saving energy.

All the Small Things

I can only dream about having a super energy-efficient home. The reality is, my home is aging and I’m constantly trying to keep up with it. As a homeowner, it can seem impossible to keep the house clean sometimes let alone finish projects and take on new ones. That’s why I keep it simple – set some overall goals and try and do one or two things a day, or a week, in support of those goals.

If your goal is to save energy (probably is since your reading this),  then caulk that window or fix the weather stripping when you realize it’s a problem. Buy a few extra filters for you A/C and put some dates on them with a marker to remind yourself when it should be replaced. Go buy a box of LED lights and replace your old ones as they burn out. Making your home more efficient and saving money doesn’t have to be hard, just take it one day at a time and if you have any questions or want to comment on how you save energy, let us know in the comments!

LED Lights for Energy SAVINGS

LED lights
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

When I was young, my dad got really good at yelling “TURN OFF THE LIGHTS!”. Eight-year-old me had absolutely no concept of energy consumption or money, or how the two were interconnected. Here I am 30 years later and I’m still trying to find a way to repent my energy sins, although LED lights have made it easier for me.

Types of Light Bulbs

Over the years there have been some improvements to the old school incandescent bulbs that we abused as children. For a while people were buying compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) – they were a bit more efficient but create light by sending electricity through a gas mixture of argon, which is inert and totally cool with the environment, and mercury, which is not totally cool with the environment. When broken, these bulbs are toxic to both the environment and the health of you and your pets. But you’re not supposed to break the bulb!!! Life happens.

Then there were halogen bulbs – efficient but delicate. Getting your greasy finger prints on a bulb could cause it to self-destruct – and don’t knock over the lamp! The filaments in these things tend to break or burn out when jolted. It was cool though, at least the gasses inside them didn’t ruin the planet.

Then one day your favorite box stores decided it was time to bless us with the light emitting diode! Let’s take a look at what an LED is and why you should replace all of your lightbulbs with the immediately.

LED – Light Emitting Diode

A light emitting diode (LED) is a semi-conducting material that emits photons (light) when an electrical current is passed through it. The diodes themselves can be tiny – the size of a pin head, and emit a relatively large amount of light compared to legacy light bulbs. LEDs can also emit different color light – the type of semi-conducting material used to create the diode dictates the light wavelength that is emitted. What’s even more interesting is that the typical white light you get from your LED bulb is most commonly a product of a blue LED and a yellow phosphor (a phosphor is a solid that emits light when exposed to blue or ultraviolet light).

Benefits of Switching

LED light bulbs use less energy = LESS $$$

The average LED light bulb you’d use in your house uses about 8 watts of electrical power compared to a 60-watt incandescent bulb. What does that mean to your wallet you ask? If you kept 1, 60- watt incandescent bulb lit 24/7 for an entire year, it would cost you about $76 (assuming electric power costs about $0.145 per kilowatt hour – average for the U.S.). The LED bulb in contrast would cost about $10! Now I understand your probably not using your lightbulbs 24/7, but either way you’re seeing a 600% savings over traditional light bulbs.

LED Lights Last Longer

The average LED light bulb has a lifetime of about 25,000 operating hours while an incandescent bulb will last 4% of that time – or about 1,000 hours. Over a 10-year period, you may not ever have to replace a LED light bulb, while you’d need to replace the incandescent bulb 18-20 times! LED lights cost about 5x more than incandescent bulbs, but last 25x longer. This one is easy to remember – LLLL!

LED lights are better for the environment

Materials aside, longer lifespan = fewer light bulbs to manufacturer and less light bulb waste in the landfills. This residual effect may not seem important now, but will make a difference in the future.

LED Retrofit

Manufacturers produce every kind of LED light that you could think of. There are LED lights to replace your standard light bulbs, LED light fixtures to replace countersunk lighting in your ceiling, and even LED chandeliers! Many LED fixtures also have settings where you can change the “temperature” of the visible light (different diodes that put out different wavelengths of light). Some even have multiple different colors. Replacing your standard light bulbs and fixtures with LEDs gives you more options to customize your living space.

Make the switch today

Now that LED lights are on the market, switching to them seems like a no-brainer. Switching to LED lights will not only save you money, but allow you more flexibility in customizing your living space and in turn, you’re helping the environment by cutting back on light bulb waste.

If you’re worried about the initial cost of LEDs , look no further than your local power company. Many companies will provide LEDs to customers for free.

LED lights also make great gifts! A few years ago, I replaced all of my LED bulbs and afterwards, my power company sent me a free box of them. This made for a great Christmas present to my dad!

Keeping Your House Cool in the Summer

Photo by Josh Rakower on Unsplash

In the southeast part of the U.S., air conditioning is an important part of life. I’ve spent a few summers in the desert and I refuse to subject myself to that discomfort if I have a choice. I understand that air conditioning is a touchy subject to some – my father in-law has certain times during the day that correspond to certain settings on his thermostat. He will never divulge the proprietary algorithm that dictates the comfort of his home, and I don’t care because I have my own! Either way – we both like to keep our house cool.

But seriously, everyone has their own comfort level and there are so many variables that go into the energy efficiency of your home – I’m not going to dive deep into the details. I do want to paint a picture for you though as to what is happening when your A/C is running.

The Basics

In the United States, your typical air conditioner is rated by cooling tons. These are not your typical U.S. Tons, you know 2000 pounds to a ton – no. These are specifically COOLING TONS. 1 ton of cooling is equal to 12,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) per HOUR.

British Thermal Units

And what is a BTU you ask? This is an important unit when describing how to keep your house cool. A BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. We can keep going down the rabbit hole but just know this is a measure of how much heat can be transferred via the refrigeration (vapor) cycle from the inside of you house to the outside environment. The A/C professionals size the units depending on your region, size of your home, number of windows and doors, height of ceiling, and some other stuff.

Refrigeration Cycle

The refrigeration cycle is at the heart of keeping your house cool!

SEER Calculation

Every air conditioning unit also has an energy rating – SEER is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. This is the ratio of the cooling output in BTU to the energy input in watts. Local governments usually specify a minimum SEER that can be installed when buying new units. The higher the SEER rating, the more cooling you’re getting for your money. The SEER rating is essentially comfort divided by money!

Don’t Waste Money

The sun radiates the earth’s surface with about 1.3 kilowatts per square meter – the same heat that you are actively removing from your home with your A/C. While it seems the A/C is doing all of the work, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you are not throwing your hard-earned money out the window.

Seal Windows

Even if your windows are older and not the most efficient, there are some things you can do to help. Look to see the condition of the caulking around the window. Many times, the think strip of caulk is the only thing keeping that hot air from coming inside. If it is yellowed or cracked you should scrape it out and replace it. Yes, this is something that YOU can do! No need hire someone – a tube of caulk and a caulk gun will cost you about $10 at a hardware store. Another really simple way to keep heat from entering your house through the windows is to upgrade your window covers. Heavy curtains, black out shades, or wood / faux wood blinds do a great job of keeping the heat out and ensuring that your A/C isn’t working too hard.

Seal Doors

As you might expect, your doors are another weak spot in your house when it comes to energy efficiency. Look for cracks between the door and the door frame. If you can see daylight shining through, it’s time to replace the weather strip! You can pick up replacement weather strip at your local hardware store for less than $20 per door. The old stuff pulls right out and the new slides right in (you may need to cut to length with scissors). If you want to step up your door game even more, install storm doors. Storm doors add another level of insulation as well as give you the option to allow some of that sunlight in during the cooler months.

Attic Insulation

Check the condition of your attic insulation. This is something that many people overlook because, well, it’s in the attic. Many homes have blown in insulation – it can either be itchy fiberglass or more commonly now, shreds of organic material known as cellulose. Over time, this insulation compresses under its own weight and its effectiveness, or “R” value, decreases. Take a look at your local building code and see how many inches of insulation there should be in your attic. If it has compressed, or is missing in some areas, you have some options.

Hiring a contractor to come out and upgrade your insulation is probably the easiest way to handle this. Contractors that specialize in this have all of the equipment on hand and can have the job done in no time. I personally recommend this as blown in insulation can make a mess. Your other option is to rent the equipment and blow the insulation in yourself. Some people prefer to do this themselves – whether it be because of cost or they simply like working in their hot attic. Either way, get some estimates and choose your path to energy efficiency! This is a great way to keep your house cool.

Replace Filters

Replace your filters and get have your equipment serviced regularly. Normally there are filters inside your home that filter out dust and particulates before it is passed through the evaporator coils. Not replacing the filters regularly will cause the evaporator coils to collect dirt, reducing it’s heat exchanging efficiency. Furthermore, a dirty filter reduces airflow, again effecting it’s efficiency. As far as servicing the A/C unit, everyone has different views on this. I know people who have never had someone out to look at their HVAC system – only when it breaks! That should tell you something. I had a someone come out this spring, they washed the condenser coils, checked the capacitor and the refrigerant charge – gave me a piece of mind that the unit won’t break down this summer.

Run Fans to Feel Cool

This last item may not be for everyone but it can help you FEEL cooler when the summer heat is relentless. The thing is, a fan does not technically keep your house cool.

Turn fans on in the room you’re sitting in – the increased airflow will help your body to cool faster through convention and evaporation! This isn’t making your A/C run more efficient, but it may allow you to give it a break once in a while. Just remember to turn the fans off when you leave the room, they are not cooling your house off.

Reduce Cooling Costs

The average 3-ton air conditioner in the U.S. can cost upwards of $100 per month to run – this cost will vary depending on how much you pay for electricity, how cool you keep your house, how energy efficient it is, and even what region you live. But just using $100 per month as an example, that’s a lot of money! Take some of these tips and make sure that you’re getting the most comfort for your money!