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Energy-saving tips help Crossroads residents beat the heat, save some money

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 9, 2010 at 3:09 a.m.


Learn more The Natural Resources Defense Council offers tips on reducing energy consumption.Visit www.nrdc.org/air/energy/genergy/easy.asp.

There's no doubt about it. With temperatures topping 100 degrees even in the shade, South Texas is in the scorching grips of summer.

And costs can rise as the temperatures heat up.

A majority - 60 to 70 percent - of the summer energy dollar goes toward cooling your home, said Gene Fisseler, director of public affairs for Reliant Energy.

But fear not. There are ways to cut back on energy consumption and still stay cool indoors.

Here are a few tips:

1.It's best to keep the thermostat set at 78 degrees.

Every degree below 78 brings a 5 to 7 percent increase in the energy bill. If you're leaving the house for more than four hours, consider turning the thermostat up 4 degrees. It won't cost more to bring the temperature back down and, while you're gone, you're saving money.

2.Bad insulation can eat up to 40 percent of money spent on cooling costs.

A roof should boast 12 to 16 inches of R-38 insulation. For a visual indicator, the insulation should come up above the rafters in an attic. Exterior walls should house R-22 insulation.

3.Fans help.

At about one cent per hour, ceiling fans are cheaper to operate than air conditioners, which can gobble up 60 cents per hour or so, depending on the brand and settings. It does no good to leave a fan on when you're not home, however, since its sole purpose is to carry heat away from the body.

4.A small, programmable thermostat can mean big savings.

When properly programmed, such thermostats, which cost about $65, can save 10 percent on an energy bill. Set it so things are comfortable when the family is home, but so it creeps up a few degrees when the house is empty. You can always override the settings if necessary.

5.Maintenance matters.

The best time to schedule an air conditioner check-up is April, since repairmen are busy during summer months. A person can schedule an appointment any time of the year, however. During visits, maintenance technicians check coolant levels, machinery and the like. And, while the visit costs some money, it's cheaper than replacing the entire system. Check your own air conditioner filter once a month and replace it if it becomes damaged or dirty.

6.Cool air can escape through vulnerable areas of the house.

Ensure weather stripping around doors and windows is in good shape and, when the air conditioner is running, keep doors and windows closed. Keep fireplace dampers closed when they aren't in use and consider a glass fireplace screen to keep cool air from escaping.

7.Keep it on auto.

Set the thermostat at "automatic." This way, the fan shuts off when the room cools to the necessary temperature. A constantly-running fan wastes electricity and money.

8.Simple measures can keep the house cooler.

Keep the blinds closed to keep the sun's heat from warming up the place. The easy way to determine which way to angle the blinds is to look down at the floor. If you can see streaks of light across the carpet when they're closed one direction, that's the wrong way.

Sources: Gene Fisseler, director of public affairs for Reliant Energy; TXU Energy website

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