It’s been said that Texas only has two seasons: Six months of Summer, and six months of not-as-hot-as-Summer. While warmer months do outnumber cooler ones here, Texans can make energy-efficient choices in Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall that will maximize comfort while minimizing utility bills.
Springtime in Texas means sunny days, cool nights, having supper on the patio, and seeing bluebonnets along the highway. It’s an ideal time to enjoy the great outdoors, and one of the best times to review, renew or replace energy-saving options indoors.
- Fire up the grill! Smoking, grilling, or barbecuing outside – and heating up side dishes in the microwave—uses two thirds less energy than heating up the oven or stove.
- Ceiling fans can be super savers. Tick your thermostat up a bit to save on AC costs, and use ceiling fans to circulate the air in the room, keeping everyone cool and comfortable. A note: Make sure you change the air flow of the fan so it’s drawing cool air upward. Switch directions in the winter so the fans push warm air down.
- Give your home a check-up. Have an HVAC professional tune up your AC unit, adding Freon if needed. Remove any dust or pet hair that may have accumulated on refrigerator coils so the motor works efficiently. And clean the track under your sliding glass door to prevent dirt or debris from ruining the seal.
School is out, swimming pools are in, and summertime energy bills could be on the rise… unless you take a few simple steps to keep your cool in the heat.
- Set your thermometer to 78 degrees or higher. Remember, every extra degree of cooling can increase energy usage from six to eight percent.
- Big umbrellas, patio covers and solar window screens all help shade your house from the sun. Planting tall shrubs or trees in front of south and east-facing windows will help as well.
- During the hottest part of the day, keep interior window coverings closed. Another good investment? Insulated, thermal-backed drapes that reflect the sun.
- Make sure your outside AC unit is shaded, either by a ventilated cover or trees, to keep it running at peak performance.
- Keep the fridge fully stocked. Every time the door opens, cold air escapes. But if it’s full of food, the cold items act as self-insulation, keeping the unit from having to recool.
“Fall colors” in Texas don’t have as much to do with leaves as they do with football jerseys–burnt orange, maroon, green or purple! Since many of those matches will be watched on your television at home, it’s important to have a game plan for scoring points on energy efficiency throughout the season.
- Clear the field. Rearrange furniture or drapes that may be blocking air vents, and be sure the dampers are open. Vacuum out dust and pet hair so your furnace runs like a winner.
- Block any leaks around doors, windows and electrical outlets – any place hot air can escape. The materials are inexpensive and easy to use, and the savings are big – up to 20% on your heating bill.
- Tackle inefficiency before winter sets in. Replace an old furnace with one that’s rated 90% or higher. Upgrade your insulation using the blow-in or spray foam variety to get into those hard-to-reach places.
- Speaking of games, don’t watch DVDs on a video gaming console. Those can use five times more power than a regular DVD player.
- Everyone wants relief from their monthly electric bills – especially during the Texas summer. For those of us who complete high energy usage tasks on the weekends, such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, should check out Direct Energy’s Free Power Weekends plan. You’ll receive free electricity every weekend from 6pm Friday through 11:59pm on Sunday , for 12 whole months. That’s over 100 days of free electricity and it’s the energy plan with the most free weekend hours in Texas!
While snow is a rare occurrence in many regions of Texas, we do have frequent encounters with icy storm fronts and blustery cold wind. Keep your toes warm and your budget in tact with these suggestions for keeping energy costs low during wintery weather.
- Keep out the cool air by installing weather strips and sealing cracks around windows and exterior doors, keeping fireplace dampers closed (unless a fire is burning), and insulating air ducts. Remember to check the connections between the ducts and the registers as well as between the ducts and the main heating unit.
- Warm your rooms naturally by opening blinds or drapes on windows that get direct sunlight during the day.
- Set the thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, and keep an extra blanket on the couch to snuggle in while watching TV, and add another to your bed at night
- Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket to intercept heat loss. (Check user manual or labels on the tank first.)
- If you need to buy a new water heater, consider a tankless unit, which is 35-45% more efficient. Plus, you’ll never run out of hot water!