Keep cool and reduce energy costs at the same time

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—As the temperature rises, energy use and costs typically rise as well. Many simple, economical ways are available to boost comfort, save energy, reduce electric bills and improve safety, according to the Illinois Electric Council (IEC).

“There are easy energy-saving steps that can pay for themselves relatively quickly,” said Molly Hall, IEC executive director. “Weather stripping and caulking are examples of inexpensive ways to improve efficiency and cut energy costs year round.”

A considerable percentage of total residential energy cost is spent cooling homes. Reduce energy costs and maintain peak air conditioner operation with a cleaning and tune-up. It also is important to clean or change filters monthly during the cooling season. An efficiently running cooling system will save dollars.

If you are purchasing a new unit, check the efficiency rating, or SEER. The higher the SEER number, the more effective the air conditioner. For greater operating efficiency, install the unit in a shady area, and keep it free of plant overgrowth and debris.

Ventilate the attic and check insulation. Adequately sized vents and/or an attic fan can help keep hot air from building up. If your attic has less than 6 to 8 inches of insulation, consider adding more. Proper attic insulation can save up to 30 percent of your cooling bill. Be sure the insulation does not block vents or cover exhaust fans.

Another inexpensive way to keep cool and reduce air conditioning costs is to use ceiling and oscillating fans to create a “wind chill” effect. The moving air makes the temperature feel cooler, and allows a higher air conditioner thermostat setting while maintaining cooling comfort. For each 1 degree increase in the thermostat setting, cooling costs can be lowered by about 3 percent.

Follow these operating tips for greater energy efficiency and lower air conditioning costs:

Install a timer or programmable thermostat to increase and decrease the temperature automatically. Leave it on a higher temperature while you’re away, and set it to cool the house half an hour before you return home.

Turn off lights, televisions and computers when not in use.

Close drapes and shades on sunny days.

Make sure heat-producing appliances like televisions and lamps are away from the thermostat. They will increase the temperature near the thermostat and cause the air conditioner to run when it is not needed.

Plan to do hot work—washing and drying clothes, cooking and baking—during cooler morning and evening hours.

Keep your kitchen cooler by cooking in a microwave oven, or grill outdoors.

Increased summer electric demands do not only place a strain on budgets, they also can place a severe strain on your home’s electrical system—a dangerous shock and fire hazard. Flickering or dimming lights, TV or computer monitors; or frequent circuit breaker trips, are signs of an overloaded electrical system or faulty wiring that should be checked immediately by a professional.

Homeowners can take simple electrical safety precautions that can prevent overloaded outlets and serious damage and injury. Avoid using extension cords continuously, and don’t use multiple plugs in outlets. Check plugs and electric cords for fraying or cracks, and never run cords across high-traffic areas, behind curtains or baseboards, or underneath rugs or furniture.

The Illinois Electric Council is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting safe, efficient use of electricity. IEC and its Safe Electricity program offer information year round to help consumers conserve electricity and reduce the risk of electric accidents. For more information and tips to help cut costs and improve home safety, visit the Web sites and

from the July 11-17, 2007, issue

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