We have suggestions to help you stay comfortable while conserving energy, no matter what the season.
The easiest way to keep your home cool is not to let it heat up in the first place. So you want good insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Shade trees, overhangs and awnings help, too.
No-cost, low-cost conservation tips
- Keep windows closed during the heat of the day, and draw blinds and draperies to keep the heat out.
- Set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher. You'll save about 5 to 10 percent on the operating cost of an air conditioner for every two degrees of cooling you're willing to give up.
- Change the filter regularly. An air conditioning unit with dirty filters can use 5 to 10 percent more energy.
- Use fans instead of the central air conditioning unit whenever possible. Individual fans cost about 90 percent less to operate.
- Adjust ceiling fans to turn counter-clockwise in the summer. Usually this means that the switch on the fan should be in the "down" position.
- Turn off unnecessary lights.
- Reduce appliance usage during hot afternoons and evenings. Many appliances create heat and moisture, making the air conditioner work harder. Use your range or stove, dishwasher, dryer, washing machine, and other heat-producing equipment in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler.
- Assemble a clothesline in the yard and give your dryer a break.
- Prepare cold meals such as salads and sandwiches. Cook hot meals only late in the evening, when it's cooler. Or put your grill to work. Check out our Peak Hour Cooking Tips videos for quick and easy cooking shortcuts.
- Microwaves use less than half the power of a conventional oven. Consider using your microwave to cook or reheat your dinner during peak hours.
- If you have a refrigerator or freezer in your garage that isn't full, consider getting rid of it. These appliances tend to be older and hog energy.
- SMUD's Shade Tree program gives free shade trees to customers whose homes have an eastern, western or southern exposure that heats up during the summer.
For every two degrees that you lower your thermostat during the winter, you save approximately 10 percent on the operating cost of your heater. So it pays to dress in layers and add a blanket to your bed.
- Keep the thermostat on your heater at 68 degrees when you're home, and 55 degrees at night or when no one's there.
- If you have a heat pump, set the lower temperature at 63 degrees. That's because heat pumps are designed to maintain temperatures within a narrower range.
- A programmable thermostat can be preset so you don't have to remember to change the setting. You can even set it to pre-heat your home before you get up in the morning or before you get home in the evening.
- Don't close doors or shut off registers in rooms. It puts added strain on the central heating system.
- If you notice little or no air coming from some registers - or if some rooms are colder than others - this could mean your ductwork leaks and you're spending money heating your attic. It's estimated that about 20 percent of Sacramento homes have substantial duct leaks.
- If you suspect duct leaks, have a licensed HVAC contractor check your entire system. (Check for rebates under our Heating & cooling section.)
- Open drapes and shades on sunny days to let in the sun's heat. Close them at night and on cloudy days.
- Close the damper and cover your fireplace when you're not using it. Of course, be sure that any fire has been completely extinguished.
- Get your heating system professionally checked once a year and change filters regularly to keep the unit running efficiently.
- Using portable heaters can be surprisingly costly. Use them only to warm rooms that don't get enough heat or in homes without central heating systems. Turn them off when nobody's in the room.
- Choose the type of heaters that sound an alarm or turn off automatically if they are tipped over.
- Indoors, never use propane heaters, hibachis, barbecues, or any heater with an open flame. They produce carbon monoxide, which is a clear, odorless gas that can kill humans and animals.
No matter what the season, you'll save money by saving energy.
- Wrap the water heater with a water heater blanket to keep heated water warm.
- Lower the temperature on the water heater to about 120 degrees. This is sufficient for most household tasks, and it will save energy.
- Install low-flow showerheads, and fix any leaky faucets. A small drip can waste a bathtub full of hot water each month.
Weather stripping and caulking can help keep your home comfortable:
- If your house is more than 15 years old, check the insulation in the attic and floor. Even if the insulation met requirements when it was installed, it has most likely settled significantly over time.
- R-38 is standard for current homebuilders, along with R-13 in the walls.
- Because up to 20 percent of the heat or cooling inside a typical house is lost through the windows, check the weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows.
- Curtains or blinds should be opened during the day to let sunlight in, which will also help heat the home. Curtains should be closed at night to act as additional insulation for windows.
- Consider replacing any incandescent light bulbs in your home with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs).These bulbs use a fraction of the electricity that incandescent bulbs use.
- To make sure outdoor lights aren't on during the day, install light-sensitive controls or timers to automatically turn off lights when they're not needed.
- Decorative lights in the yard are a fun part of summer - but choose solar-powered lights or replace the bulbs with CFLs or LEDs.
- Desk lamps focus the light where you actually need it, rather than wasting energy lighting the entire room.
- When you're not using lights and appliances, turn them off.
- Some newer TVs, DVD players and other electronic appliances have a "sleep" or "stand-by" mode that allows them to start immediately when you turn them on. However, that means they are constantly drawing a small amount of energy. When possible, you should switch this option off. Or, use smart strips so that you can easily turn off multiple appliances at once.
- Use appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers only when they are full, and preferably before or after the summer peak hours of 4 to 7p.m., when demand for electricity is highest.
- Refrigerators are second only to the heating/air conditioning system for using the most amount of energy in your home. Help the refrigerator stay efficient by cleaning the coils at the back or bottom of the unit.
- Keep in mind, every time you open a refrigerator door, the compressor has to run for 8 to 10 minutes to cool it down again.
- When you are ready to replace an appliance, purchase an Energy Star® model. They're between 15 percent and 40 percent more efficient than older models, and will save you energy for years to come.
Going on vacation?
- In summer, set your air conditioner thermostat at 85 degrees or higher. In colder weather, set your heater to 60 degrees or lower.
- Put lights on a timer to save energy and give the house a "lived in" look.
- Draw the drapes on windows facing south and west.
- Shift your water heater to the lowest setting.
- Check to make sure no faucets inside or out are dripping.
Be Water Wise
A tremendous amount of electricity is used to run the pumps that bring water to your house and transport waste to your regional water utility.
SMUD and the Sacramento Area Water Works Association ask that you avoid using large amounts of water between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Because energy prices are highest then, it costs your local water utility more to run the water pumps during those hours. These costs are passed along to you.
Avoid running dishwashers and clothes washers during peak hours. Water your lawn and gardens before 10 a.m. or after 10 p.m.
Want to learn more?
For additional ways SMUD can help you save energy and money, visit the Rebates, incentives & financing section.