saving energy during the summer

Poo yi. Summer is just not my season, y'all. I do love swimming and sundresses, but Louisiana summers are basically Survivor: Bayou, and I'm just not cut out for this humidity.

But in any case, summer and its heat and humidity have arrived. So now it's time to talk conservation practices, to save on energy bills and misery. A little conservation from everyone goes a long way toward making sure the whole area doesn't suffer as much. In the dog days of summer, city utility grids have quite a strain put on them, and the demand causes higher rates and possibly rolling blackouts.

Some actions you can take to conserve energy around your home include:

  • Plant trees for shade. The part of your home that faces west is the part that will benefit most from shade and protection, since the afternoon sun burns hotter and longer than the morning sun.
  • Get blackout or thermal curtains for your windows to block out light and heat. Keep your curtains and blinds closed during the day. They can't work to their full potential if they aren't covering the window!
  • Turn your AC thermostat up when you leave for work or school in the morning, then turn it down when you return. It won't feel as good when you get home in the afternoon, but you will save money from running the air conditioner in an empty house during peak heat hours. To be extra energy efficient, look into a thermostat like the Nest. It learns your schedule and programs itself to turn the AC on or off at the right times. You can even control it from your phone. There are also standard thermostats that have a program feature. You can simply program it to be set higher while you're away and to lower right before you get back home, for more comfort.
  • Use the majority of your electricity in off-peak hours. Don't wash your clothes or cook while the temperatures are at their hottest. The electricity rates will be higher, and the demand from everyone else will contribute to putting a strain on the grid. Do laundry or your hair in the morning or evening. (Or let your hair go natural!)
  • While we're on cooking, look for recipes that don't require as much use of your stove or oven. The oven especially heats up the kitchen, requiring your air conditioner to run more to regulate the temperature. Using a slow cooker or cooking dishes that don't require heat will help to keep your home cooler.
  • Place CFL lightbulbs in all lights and lamps. Incandescent bulbs give off more heat than light, and thus, cost more to run. CFL bulbs are cooler to the touch and use much less energy to give you the same end product.
  • Turn on ceiling or tower fans for less energy-sucking air regulation. They will help reduce your need to run the air conditioner continuously. Just make sure to turn them off when you leave the room.
  • Water your lawn in the morning or evening. Watering in the middle of the day just means that the water will evaporate faster and not soak into your lawn. And for the love of the Earth, if it is raining, turn OFF the automatic sprinkler! You are just wasting water and money, and making environmentalists like me angry. According to the American Water Works Association, as much as 30% of water can be lost to evaporation when you water your lawn midday. And if your town has a lawn watering schedule, follow it!
  • Use a windshield sun shade in your car when you must park in the sun. It will make the interior of your car feel much better and help reduce the need for frantically blasting the air conditioner as soon as you get in.

Summer isn't comfortable, but by using a few of these conservation tips, you can be comfortable while still remembering to be green.

This year poses a new summer energy efficiency challenge for me, as I've found I've had to relent on some of my practices. Having a kitty means the blinds are up most of the day, in order for him to be able to see outside. In the afternoons this means the place gets really bright and hot. I still tend to keep my air conditioner up, so I know it will only get more uncomfortable for the both of us as summer goes on. So I'm working on a few ways to combat the problem efficiently. I would love to apply some solar film to the bottom portion of my windows, so my kitty can sit in the window and watch the birds without feeling all of the heat, and it will cover what the blinds haven't been. And I'm shopping around for blackout or thermal curtains to replace the current unlined ones shown below. I will hopefully be trying out a new set soon (hint, if Mom and Dad get a pair I picked out for my birthday), and will report on how well they work (or don't).

Do you practice any of these conservation tips already? What kinds of differences have you noticed from before you started?

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