I get asked this question a lot: What temperature should I set my thermostat on while I go on vacation? The quick answer: It depends! I’m going on vacation soon so this is extremely relevant to me right now and here is what I do:
I’m on the time of use plan where I pay a much cheaper rate from the hours of 7pm to noon. Because of this, I set the temperature in my house to 95 degrees during on peak hours and 90 during off peak hours. I also worry about the dryness in the air so I fill a couple buckets up with water and place them in different spots in my house.
There are a few things that you may want to consider. 1) House plants. If you have a lot of them, I would suggest not going about 88-90 degrees in your house. 2) If you have expensive art work and/or very expensive kitchen cupboards, you may not want to go above 88-90 degrees. 3) Indoor animals…may not want to have them suffer at higher temperatures, although I think most cats would be ok around 88 degree. I don’t know about other animals but ask your vet.
I think most people keep their houses too cool during vacations or extended periods. Increasing the temperature a few degrees will save you enough to pay for a semi-nice dinner.
Energy prices are expensive and are only going to increase, potentially causing has a huge financial burden on homeowners in the greater Phoenix area. Not only do we heavily rely on air conditioning to cool our homes during the extreme summer temperatures, but for the most part, our homes are not constructed with energy efficiency as a priority.
While I truly believe the best thing each homeowner can do is order a Home Performance with Energy Star Check Up for your home (which is the most effective way to identify and make improvements needed to be more energy efficient), there are many ways each homeowner can reduce his/her overall electric bill without spending any money.
Some of these may seem common sense but because we work with thousands of homeowners, we see these issues every day.
1) Ensure you’re on the right utility plan for your usage. Both APS and SRP have great websites that help you identify which plan you would pay the least for. If you’ve lived in the house for at least 12 months, APS/SRP programs analyze your actual usage to determine your lowest cost plan. If you’re new to the house, you’ll great guidance based on your lifestyle. Most popular is a type of time–of-use plan that identifies on-peak and off-peak hours. Naturally, you’ll pay significantly more for on-peak usage which brings up my next way to save money.
2) Take advantage of on-peak and off-peak hours.
3) For APS customers, understand and control the DEMAND charge on your bill.
4) Evaluate your lifestyle and how many “things” are plugged in. Try to avoid extra refrigerators in your garage. Safeway and Fry’s store food for you for free.
5) In the summer, ceiling fans are great when the room is being used.
6) Take advantage of natural lighting, especially in the winter months when you don’t have to worry about the sun glaring in your house and increasing the temperature. This includes removing sunscreens in the winter.
7) Clean the coils on your AC using a hose.
8) Try to keep your house 1-2 degrees warmer during On Peak Hours vs Off Peak temperature levels.
9) Op for a new cable box that controls every TV in your house versus having a separate box for every TV.
10) Open blinds for light if and only if they are not getting hit with direct sunlight.
11) Remember to use your fans in the bathroom and laundry during the summer and winter months when your house is closed up. Your house needs some fresh air and this will force need air into the house.
12) Make sure your sun screens are not directly touching the window. For the screen to work the best, there needs to be air space between the screen and the window. If it does touch, simply remove the screen, turn it over, and reattach. This will create the space needed.
Customers always ask us about the potential energy savings from doing the various energy efficiency upgrades to their homes (adding more insulation, duct sealing, air sealing, shade screens for windows, radiant reflective house paint, flat roof radiant reflective paint, etc.). This is a great question but one that is sometimes hard to answer directly.
There is a lot of data on each of these products but that data can often be a bit misleading. If you added up all the potential savings from each product, according to the manufacturers, you could easily save over 120%. That number is obviously incorrect. Even websites from the utility companies and energystar don’t always see eye to eye on the potential savings.
From all my years of actually doing the work, researching various data sheets, and tracking the energy savings we have seen from our customers, most homes can expect to see about 20-35% reduction in their energy bills by: 1) making sure your duct work is sealed properly (most homes are losing 20-30% of their heated or cooled air through the duct system), 2) have a proper air seal from the attic space to your living space in your house, 3) bring your insulation levels up to at least a R-38 rating for the Phoenix, AZ area (for suggested r values in other areas, see energystar.gov), and 4) have shade screens or a good window film to block the extreme heat.
We’ve had some homes save over 40% just by painting their flat roofs with a radiant reflective roof coating. We’ve had some homes save 15-20% by painting their house with a radiant reflective paint. We’ve had some homes save over 50% just by sealing their ducts and adding insulation. Now how much of that savings was because of the product vs some external factor that caused a change in energy consumption (like change in temperature or lifestyle change)? I have some idea but it is nearly impossible to measure it exactly.
Where will your home fall on energy savings, I have no idea. The best I can do is give you an estimated range once we do an Energy Audit. The one thing I can tell you with certainty is if anyone tries to tell you exactly what you will save, run… and please run to us!
People sometimes think because they live in the Phoenix desert, they should have a lot of dust in their homes. This is not the case. If you are dusting your home more than once a month, you have too much dust and its not because you live in the desert!
We find in most homes with dust issues, the real cause is a leaky duct system and/or an attic that is improperly sealed from the living space. This excess dust is actually dirty attic air that you and your family are constantly breathing. Not good!
Call us for an Energy Audit. 602-334-4959. There are easy and inexpensive fixes for this.