Save some on that power bill!

By
Home Inspector with Trace Inspections, LLC TN #17

With the hot summer weather we are experiencing in Middle Tennessee, we are looking to ways to keep our homes cool. I do not know about you but we have seen a sizable increase in our electric bill over last year and we have not made any change our home or to the temperatures in our home.  Here are some tips to keep your home comfortable. Most are fairly inexpensive and make for an easy weekend project.

Window Coverings

When the temperatures are expected to be high, consider keeping shades closed throughout the day. It is amazing the difference in heat gain when the sun is kept off the windows. In our home we have plantation blinds and I'm considering tinting the windows. Some of our neighbors have special screens on their windows that keep the solar gain to a minimum.

Fans Around the Home

Consider installing ceiling fans to keep the air moving, this helps make it much more comfortable, especially in bedrooms. In my home, I have several small fans that keep the air circulating. The movement of air makes you feel cooler than the actual air temperature.

 Fans for the Season

I have a digital indoor and outdoor thermometer that I use to determine when the outside temperature has dropped below the inside temperature. During the cooler times of the year and when the temperature outside drops in the evening, we have a large box fan that is tightly fitted in a back window that exhausts the warmer interior air outside. This causes negative air pressure in the house, and when you open other windows in the home, you will get a nice cool breeze coming in. Similar to those old fashion whole house fans that use to be so popular..

Home Air Conditioners

If you have a central air conditioner, there are a few items you should consider to keep it running at peak efficiency.

The outside component of your unit is called the compressor. It houses the pump and the blower that cool the compressed gas that is then pumped into the home to cool the air inside. We see these units covered with landscaping debris (grass, weeds, bushes etc.) all the time.

When this happens the airflow is restricted and it has to work harder to cool your home. Always keep these units clear from obstructions, so they can easily cool the coils. Keep lawn clippings from blowing on them when trimming the grass. Sometimes dryer vents are located too close to AC units, plugging them with lint.

Read your manual on the best way to clean the unit. Some may be hosed off, ALWAYS TURN OFF THE POWER when cleaning them. Others require more complex cleaning. A dirty AC will waste a lot of energy. When in doubt have a professional clean it regularly, usually at least once a year.

Attic Fans

These will help keep he attic spaces cool. Ideally the attic is the same temperature as the outside air. In the summer, I routinely enter attics that are as high at 145 degrees! Ventilation and insulation are both critical to keep this heat away from your living space. If your attic has less then 12 inches of insulation consider having more added. This will pay for itself in heating in winter and keep you much more comfortable in summer.

Roofing

When re-roofing a home, consider using light colored coverings. They will reduce the heat from the sun. We always recommend silver coating un-coated torch down roofs. It will extend their life and help cool your home. Another saver are the addition of "Ridge Vents" on the roof.  This is one of the most effective ways of venting an attic.

Thermostats

Use automatic thermostats with timers to control your cooling system. Be sure your air filters are clean, and your ductwork is tight, well insulated and free from leaks. We see leaking ductwork every day! Never turn you thermostat higher than 2-3 degrees than you normally keep it set at.  It takes more energy to cool down a home than to maintain the temperature in the home.

Landscaping

We recommend that you plant trees that will drop their leaves in winter on the south and west side of homes. This way you have shade in summer and the sun can naturally heat the home in winter. Remember to keep all plants trimmed away from the building.

"To increase the efficiency of your air-conditioning unit by up to 10 percent, plant trees and shrubs to shade the outside unit; place them at least 30 inches away so they don't block the vents on the compressor. For more tips on ways to use landscaping to increase the energy efficiency of your home, see the Department of Energy's landscaping advice." Consumer Reports

This information is provided by Scott Patterson of Trace Inspections www.traceinspections.com  Serving all of Middle Tennessee with quality home inspections. 615-302-1113 or 615-870-4162

Comments (8)

Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

Yes, down here in Georgia my bill has gone up too.  And I don't see a thing on your list I don't do... okay except my roof color, but it's only 8 years old and I didn't really think about it at the time... I liked green, it matched my shutters and well until I need a new roof, I'm stuck with green.

I also don't have lights on inside during the day unless I really need it and turn them off when I'm not using them.  Light bulbs put out a LOT of heat.

And more often than not, we cook outside in the summer.  Grilling on the deck doesn't heat up the kitchen.  And veggies from my garden cooked on the grill are wonderful.

Jul 22, 2010 06:35 AM
Joe Harvey
Lake Worth Real Estate - Lake Worth, FL

Great post. Here in South Florida its as hot as Hades all summer..Spring, Fall and Winter too lol

Jul 22, 2010 06:41 AM
Scott Patterson, ACI
Trace Inspections, LLC - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Jeez it is HOT in Middle TN!  What is with the heat, I'm ready for cooler weather.  I'm looking forward to a little rafting trip next weekend to the cool waters of the Ocoee river! http://www.ocoeerafting.com/

 Should be a blast.

Jul 24, 2010 05:11 AM
Dale Ganfield
Leland, NC

Hi Scott, all great points.  I think one of the hardest items to sell is to get folks to install a light colored shingle.  

Jul 26, 2010 01:29 PM
Scott Patterson, ACI
Trace Inspections, LLC - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Hi Dale,

I agree!  Not only the homeowners but as in my area the HOA has to be sold on it, and they won't go for it.  All of our homes have to be in about 6 shades of Brown or Gray!

Jul 26, 2010 01:48 PM
Diane Osowiecki
Diane O and Friends - Benchmark Realty - Franklin, TN
Greater Nashville Real Estate

Scott,

Great tips.  We had one of our clients go for a white roof and his a/c bill decreased by $20.00 the first month.  He's moved so I have no idea what the bills are this summer.

Aug 10, 2010 09:37 AM
Scott Patterson, ACI
Trace Inspections, LLC - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Hi Diane,

My brother has a white roof on his home in Jackson MS, and I know it saves him a bundle on his electric bill.  Hope you are having a good summer, it looks like homes are selling a little better now in middle TN.

Aug 11, 2010 02:42 AM
Carl Winters
Canyon Lake, TX

We all need to be doing all of the above to help control cost. It is hot here in Texas, but typical for August.

Aug 23, 2010 03:03 PM

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