This August was a very warm month for California. Did you know that it was the hottest August Earth has ever recorded? These hot months unfortunately contribute to much higher electricity bills. Luckily, having gone solar, hot days don’t have as drastic an effect. With the hottest days on record however, everyone’s electricity bills went up. Unfortunately, utilities limited the size of your solar system to your previous annual use. When you use more, the utility will charge you accordingly.
Southern California Edison redesigned rates to eliminate the top tier. Edison announced this summer that rates were increasing 8% for homes. That’s the average increase however, and the energy conscious are getting a worse deal. Customers who stay within the tier one and two will see those rates increase 12% and 17%, respectively.
We’ve come up with a few ways to help use your air conditioner (AC) less and keep your wallet happy, even if you don’t have solar, yet.
Efficiency is usually lost to heat. If you put your hand next to an incandescent light bulb and an LED light bulb, there’s a big temperature difference. More efficient appliances expel less heat, but it’s better if you can turn it off! If you’re not using your printer or DVD player, you’re generating unnecessary heat in your home.
Simple enough. Open your windows at night to cool down your house and close them during the day. You can help by closing your blinds during the day as well.
This one is counter-intuitive to the drought problem we’re facing. Plants can actually cool the air through evapotranspiration. This means that as air flows over their leaves, the small amounts of water evaporate and cool the air. Placing large leafy plants in areas with air flow or near windows can help cool the air flowing through the house. It can also purify the air naturally! Check out English Ivy and other options on NASA’s air purifying plants list.
You’re going to need incense, matches, and some caulk. Even with your windows and doors shut, your house isn’t air tight. There are tiny holes in your windows, doors, and frames that are letting your conditioned air out! Light a piece of incense and run it along your windows and doors. When the smoke wavers, you have a hole. Use the caulk to plug up that hole. This is best done on windy days or there’s a large temperature difference inside/outside.
Those dastardly windows are letting all that warm sunshine in! However, there are many fixes. The easiest option is to install blinds. Tinting your windows can block a significant portion of heat coming through. Upgrading your windows to low-emissivity (low-e) will block the heat without blocking nearly as much light. A better insulation rating for your window will also improve performance.
Insulating your house helps it maintain a constant temperature. This stops extra heating in the summer and extra cooling in the winter. Attic insulation can be easily installed and have a dramatic effect.
There are actually lots of options out there including evaporative cooling AC units as well as single room units. Be sure to get the one that best fits your needs. You may be eligible for some utility rebates!
This concept is technically called “Evaporative Cooling”. There are also some highly efficient evaporative cooling air conditioners that can lower your bill, but that isn’t as fun as justifying a pool! If you have a pool in your backyard, the temperature around the pool is a little lower. Create a draft from your pool by opening windows and turning on fans. The air that passing over the water is cooled before it enters your house. If you open an upstairs window, you can create a stacked ventilation effect that pushes hot air out as it drags in the cooler air from your pool. This doesn’t work in every situation, but it’s fun to try.
You thought we were going to say solar, right? We’ll get to that, but an attic fan is a great way to vent excess heat from your house. A whole house fan is another option, but is a little more complicated than an attic fan, which can also be solar powered.
When you’re at home, you’re not using every room in my house. Why cool the guest room if you are napping on the couch? The easiest option is to just close vents to specific rooms. Another option could be a single room air conditioner or a smart thermostat.
Criminals are aware of this, but did you know a lot of houses are empty during the day? Luckily, we have security systems, web cams, and cute dogs to protect us. Similar to only cooling what you use, make sure you aren’t cooling unnecessarily. A programmable or smart thermostat, like a Nest, can make sure you only cool when you’re home and it changes the temperature for cooling at night. Nests even help the compressor on your air conditioner work more efficiently.
Obviously we were going to put this in…but please hear us out. When you install solar, it turns your meter backwards. The best part is that it reduces the most expensive electricity first in a tiered rate plan. This means that the solar being produced isn’t worth the average $.12/kWh, but it’s worth $.30/kWh. Solar protects you from paying the highest tier’s prices. On commercial buildings, it was found that having solar helped reduce their cooling costs by shading the building. In other words, they didn’t have to cool as much, and they wound up saving 5% of the system’s initial cost. Thanks UCSD for studying this!
We understand efficiency upgrades can be expensive. Never forget, there is financing out there to help you. Want to find out if you qualify for a free solar estimate?
FYI: If you have an existing solar system that isn’t producing enough, you can add panels to your system. In SCE territory, you can add 10% or 1 kW of capacity without changing your net metering contract. If you add the capacity before NEM 1.0 is over (July 2017) then you can add as much capacity as needed.
Do you have a way to be more energy efficient? We’d love to hear them! Share your ideas and suggestions with us on Twitter or Facebook.