Energy savers that can take the heat off summer utility bills

A few energy-saving measures can give you a vacation from high utility bills this summer.

Following some easy steps, you'll find that you can take the heat off the usual high price of being cool and comfortable in the hot summer months.

Here they are:

* Caulk, insulate, and weatherstrip. These three old standbys are effective in lowering both heating and cooling costs. In homes with adequate insulation and air blockage, energy experts estimate a saving of 20 to 30 cents out of every dollar spent on cooling during the summer months.

* Raise the thermostat. Thermostats that were set for 68 degrees or lower in the winter should be raised to at least 78 degrees for the summer. This setting provides a comfortable and energy-efficient indoor temperature.

* Block the sun. Studies have indicated that proper use of curtains, shades, and awnings can intercept from 50 to 80 percent of the sun's heating rays. For maximum protection, close curtains by midday and replace or extend awnings during the hottest months.

* Use attic exhausts. Attic temperatures can reach a blistering 150 degrees from the sun and from rising household heat. Ventilating this trapped air can reduce the running time of an air conditioner. Uncovering attic vents or installing these outlets can help save on utility costs.

* Turn off humidifiers. Studies have shown that a relative humidity of 30 percent decreases the feeling of warmth by 5 or 6 degrees. This difference in feeling may be enough to allow a higher thermostat setting on the air conditioner. In extremely humid areas, a dehumidifier may be necessary to increase the comfort of a house.

* Use exhaust fans sparingly. Exhaust fans in the bath and kitchen can reduce humidity and vent heat. But as with winter heating, exhaust fans can quickly blow away a room full of cooled air. Turn off the fans as soon as their work has been completed.

* Open windows. Open those windows which have been closed for six to nine months. Keep them open on cool days and at night. When coupled with a window or ceiling fan, open windows may circulate enough air to cool a house comfortably for at least several hours a day.

* Cook with small appliances. Countertop appliances have two advantages over traditional ovens and ranges: (1) less energy is needed for their operation; and (2) less heat is generated during cooking time.

* Close off unused rooms. Close vents from central air-conditioning units or turn off window models. Periodically cooling down extra rooms uses less energy than is needed to keep the unused rooms continuously cool.

* Dim the lights. Energy savings are doubled when unneeded lights are turned off. Energy is not wasted in burning the lights, and heat generated by the electric lights does not add to household heat. And a darkened room feels cooler than a brightly lighted one.

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