Cut Summertime Costs

utility costs

Reducing summer utility expenses can boost vacation budgets.

The summer heat and brainstorming indoor toddler activities made me think of the extra expenses that surface in the summer. If you are trying to make funds flexible for spontaneous beach trips, summer camp fees, or traveling some place cooler—think about what you can control: Your thermostat!

Electric bills can surprise you. Our neighbor was recently surprised by a $700 electric bill. These costs creep up on us. It’s not as if we have a rolling dollar gauge on our electric meter like you find at the gas station when filling up your car. You may not realize how your cooling expenses add up until a month later when you receive your bill.

After years of business experience as a Realtor, I repeatedly see how homeowners battle energy costs. Here are some traditional and new modern ways to reduce your energy output and hopefully minimize your energy costs.

growth ecology - led lamp - green lighting

LED. You may have started replacing your traditional incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs over the years, but the affordability of light emitting diode (LED) bulbs has helped many businesses and homeowners reduce costs. If you thought you got a great savings by switching to CFL, according to Seesmart Technology, LED bulbs use approximately 50% less energy than CFLs. (LEDs use 90% less energy than standard bulbs.) This is a notable savings that you enjoy every month and for years to come since the bulbs are expected to last for over a decade. For readers in Raleigh, one of the leaders in LED technology is right here in Research Triangle Park—CREE!

Daylight. Since the days are longer in the summer, there’s not as great a need to use lights around the house in the morning and evening. (In the winter it’s usually dark by 5 o’clock!) Outside, replace your outdoor electric lighting with solar-powered wireless lights. You only have your up-front purchase fee and no ongoing expenses. Daylight is good and bad though. Yes, we don’t need artificial light as much indoors, but the extra intense light also heats up our homes. Keep your blinds closed during the day—especially for southern-facing windows—to block the unnecessary heat from coming in.

Cook outside. Electric stove? In the evening when you have more shade to enjoy being outside, cook dinner outside on a grill. You won’t use up electricity to pre-heat your oven inside, and the extra heat from the oven won’t warm up the house and put the burden on your air conditioning system.

Drafts. This is a simple tip—check your weather stripping! You may be letting in a lot of heat if you have French entry doors or poor seals around your garage door. New weather stripping typically costs less than $5 and is easy to replace.

smart homes

What if your home knows what you want before you do?

Smart. Technology helps us in so many areas of our lives. Several new “smart home” services have surfaced in recent years that help homeowners more efficiently manage utilities. You may have seen Nest, a thermostat that ‘learns’ your activity and programs heating and cooling to suit your needs. Iris is another system that increases control over your home’s utilities—and even allows you to unlock your doors remotely! Both can be operated via apps on your smartphone. Another reason to be proud of being a Triangle-area resident, Duke University partnered with the Pratt School of engineering to create the Duke Smart Home Program. This program is educating students to find new ways of incorporating technology into homes.

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