We’ve all been there — in the middle of a sweltering heat wave wondering if it’s just you who’s trying to find creative ways to beat the heat. During heat waves, it can be tempting to turn down the AC to arctic levels, but doing so leads a large energy bill at the end of the month and an increased demand on our energy grid, which can result in a widespread blackout. And that’s bad news for everyone.
Why is it important to conserve energy in a heat wave?
When temperatures rise outside, all we can think about is staying cool. Really cool. That often leads us to turn the thermostat down, turn on all our fans, and stay inside. Of course, it’s not just us doing this — it’s all our neighbors in town, too. If it’s a state-wide heat wave, then you could be looking at all the homes in neighboring towns and states, too. That’s a lot of energy being used. However, it’s important that we do everything we can to avoid doing this. When a heat wave hits, do what you must to stay cool, but don’t be tempted to turn down the thermostat or run all your other appliances. Doing this forces energy suppliers to turn to the least energy efficient and environmentally friendly power plants for energy to ensure they meet the area’s demand for energy supply. This drives up greenhouse emissions significantly, which will make the effects of a heat wave worse over the long term as those greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere.
So, before you reach for that AC remote control, consider some of these smart tech tips to optimize energy usage during a heat wave so you can stay cool, reduce energy demands on the grid, and spend less on your energy bill.
Best Ways To Save Energy at Home in a Heat wave
Consider LED lighting
LED lighting is typically 25-80% more efficient than a normal incandescent bulb, and can last 3-25 times longer. In a heat wave, a good way to ease the strain on your air conditioning unit is to close your curtains, blinds, and drapes. If that means you have to turn on your lights, make them LEDs. Another plus is that LEDs don’t emit heat, whereas traditional filament bulbs do.
Turn off non-essential lighting
If you’re not going to be in the room, turn off the lights. If you have decorative lighting, such as string lights or colored lights in your kitchen, turn them off during the heat of the afternoon, when the demand for energy is highest. If you have LEDs, then it’s actually more efficient to leave them on if you’re going to be out of the room for less than 15 minutes, but in any other circumstance, turn them off!
Close window shades and blinds
As mentioned above, closing your window shades and blinds is extremely helpful during a heat wave. When you’re using your AC, you may not notice how much heat is being created as the sun comes in through the window, but windows in direct sunlight will be heating your home, even as your AC cools it. This means it has to work twice as hard, and will have to stay on for longer. Instead, close any shades and blinds for windows that receive a lot of sunlight, especially in the afternoon (typically midday until 5-6pm). This will block and reflect a lot of the sunlight away from your home and help keep it cool naturally.
Lower your water heating costs
We don’t often think about water heating when we think about our energy consumption, but it actually accounts for 18% of the energy your home consumes. That’s a huge percentage, so avoid using hot water during a heat wave. Have a cool shower, avoid baths, and avoid using your major appliances. If you have to do a load of laundry, put it on a cool wash (or just leave it until the evening).
Avoid using the oven
Ovens use a ton of energy to get hot in the first place, and then they make your home even warmer. It’s a good idea to stock up on “picnic foods,” e.g., anything you would take out to eat cold. This way, you can have full meals as normal, but not have to cook the food yourself. Alternatively, use the microwave, toaster oven, air fryer, slow cooker, or instant pot, since all of these use less energy and create less heat.
Use fans instead of turning down the thermostat
If you live in a hotter climate, then you no doubt love your ceiling fan. Fans are a great alternative to turning down the thermostat because they create air movement in the room, helping you feel cooler by making your body’s natural heat-loss methods more effective. They’re also cheap and can help circulate air around your home if you live in an older home that wasn’t designed with air conditioning in mind.
Wash with cold water
As mentioned above in the hot water section, a heat wave is not a good time to have a hot shower or steamy bath! Not only are you creating more heat inside your home, but you’re using a lot more energy by heating that water. Instead, shower with cool or cold water. Cold showers can actually make you less vulnerable to illnesses and can be pleasant if you’ve just been outside in the sun!
If you don’t want a cold meal for dinner and aren’t up for using an alternative cooking method, why not use the heat wave as an excuse to dine out? Restaurants are already going to be cooking anyway, so you can reduce energy use at home by taking advantage of the energy they’re already using to cook food and cool their restaurant.
Use a smart thermostat to regulate temperature
Smart thermostats are "smart" because they connect to your WiFi network and allow you remote control access.
They can also automatically set the temperature based on a schedule, or prior to a heatwave. To conserve the most energy, experts recommend keeping the inside temperature to 78 degrees. 3 – 5% more energy is used for each degree lower than that. Automating your home's temperature with a smart thermostat helps you avoid costly energy bills. Some good options include the Nest and the Ecobee smart thermostats.
Avoid operating high-energy appliances during peak hours
To keep energy costs low during a heatwave, it's best to avoid using high-energy appliances (even if they are Energy Star certified) during peak hours, which are typically between 9AM and 9PM.
A way to help keep track of this is by using smart plugs to control appliances remotely. The Belkin WeMo Switch can be programmed to turn certain appliances on or off at a specified time.
Upgrade your air conditioner and appliances
Appliance and air conditioning unit energy efficiency gets better year by year. If you’ve got an appliance that’s over 5-7 years old, it’s highly likely that it’s being a massive draw on your energy supply and, consequently, your wallet. When an old appliance starts to have problems, consider replacing it instead of getting it repaired. In the case of appliances, even cheap new appliances are more energy efficient than old ones. Look for Energy Star certifications and look for a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio in air conditioning units.
Unplug non-essential devices
Any device that is plugged in has a risk of drawing a small amount of residual energy, even if the device is turned off. Many appliances, devices, and even chargers will continue to “top up” a little over the course of the day. This can drive up your energy bill, and of course drives up demand during a heat wave. When you know a heat wave is coming, unplug anything you don’t intend to use.
Change the filters on your HVAC system every 6 months
Filters get dirty, which means the system has to work overtime in order to push out cool air.
Make sure you stay on top of changing the filters so that when a heatwave hits, your HVAC system is not using excess energy to cool down your house.
Check your central cooling duct system for leaks
Up to 20% of cooled air can be lost through leaky or poorly insulated ducts.
The more cooled air you lose, the harder your HVAC system has to work to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. Additionally, up to 30% of heating and cooling energy is lost through old windows. Even switching from single-pane to dual-pane windows can save you up to $465 a year, according to a recent Energy Star study.
A heatwave can really drain your finances if your home isn't optimized for conserving energy. Smart home tech can help you lower your energy usage during a heatwave so that you can make an impact on the environment. By incorporating one or all of these methods, you'll be able to save money on energy bills while also taking some of the strain of the national utility grid when experiencing a heatwave.
Saving energy during a heatwave is easier than you think
When temperatures soar and you’re feeling hot and bothered, the last thing on your mind may be your energy use. But don’t forget the price all that energy comes at: long-term heating through global warming. While no one will ask you to forego your air conditioning and other comforts, it is absolutely worth cutting back where possible. The fewer greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the less intense heat waves we’ll feel.
As we take steps to conserve energy during a heat wave, we can look to the benefits of renewable energy. One of the best ways to help change our world for the better and reduce our reliance on these inefficient and harmful power plants is to make the switch to renewable energy. When you make the switch, all the energy you use will be purchased from a clean energy source, such as from a wind power farm. These sources don’t create greenhouse gases, and can be used without the worry of doing harm to the environment. The greater the demand, the more power in the grid will be from these sources. In the future, we hope to see a time when we can use energy freely because it will all come from clean sources.
As a clean energy company, we make it easy to switch your home to renewable energy sources. Our plans are tailored to you, and offer unlimited clean energy so you can rest easy knowing you’re doing a huge part in the fight for a better world. Visit Inspire today, to learn how to switch to renewable energy for your home.
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