Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Simple changes this summer can make home feel cooler


So you want to save energy and do your part for the environment, but you don’t want to swelter during summer because your home is uncomfortably warm?

There’s no need to sacrifice comfort for your environmental conscience. Going green doesn’t have to mean going overboard.

In fact, it’s possible to trim your energy use by making a few changes that your family probably won’t even notice.

First, the small stuff. Save energy here and there, and it will add up before you know it. Start with three simple changes:

1. Turn on your ceiling fan. The fan won’t cool the room off, but it will move the air around so you feel cooler. That means you can inch up the thermostat by 3 to 4 degrees without noticing a difference in comfort. And for every degree you turn your thermostat up during air conditioning season, you’ll save about 2 percent on cooling costs.

2. Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Standard light bulbs spend 90 percent of their energy making heat rather than light, so they actually can make a room feel warmer and force the air conditioner to work harder. CFLs, on the other hand, keep their cool. Plus, they use 75 percent less energy than incandescents and last 10 times longer.

3. Change the air conditioning filter every month. Even if the manufacturer recommends changing it every two or three months, do it every time you pay the electric bill. Arizona is a dusty place, and all that dirt can cover your filter in no time. The dirtier the filter, the less efficient the air conditioner – and the higher your energy bill.

Now, the big stuff. And by big, I mean these two changes can save you a bundle.

1. Invest in an energy management computer. These gadgets cost around $3,500, but they’ll save you a minimum of 30 percent on your air conditioning bill every month – even if you keep the house downright cold.

The one in my house is from Advanced Home Systems in Phoenix. It “knows” when your electric utility’s rates, which fluctuate several times every day, are lowest. So you actually pay less at times when the fewest people are running air conditioners and taking hot showers at the same time. To save on air conditioning costs, for instance, the computer will automatically lower the thermostat overnight as low as you’ll allow so your house will cool off while rates are at their lowest. Your home will retain enough of that cold air to keep it comfortable the next afternoon, when the computer will raise the temperature slightly so you don’t use as much electricity when rates are at their highest.

2. When it’s time to replace your water heater, go solar. By the time you cash in rebates and tax credits for the new appliance and add in what you save on the energy bill, it will quickly pay you back for spending a little more than if you buy a traditional gas or electric model. And The Solar Store, 2833 N. Country Club Road, says it could generate as much as 80 percent of the energy you need to supply your family with hot water.

Buy one with a backup so you can revert to your traditional power source in case of a cloudy stretch of days – so you’ll never be without hot water when you want it.

Rosie Romero has been in the Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry for 35 years. He has a radio program from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KNST-AM (790). For more do-it-yourself tips and for Arizona’s most-trusted contractor referral network, go to rosieonthehouse.com or call (888) ROSIE-4-U during the show. The Rosie on the House column appears every Friday.


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