More Texas military families live in privatized housing than ever before. The unpredictable Texas weather makes it difficult to keep home energy consumption within the approved Utility Allowance for a given home type. To help ease your frustration, we’ve collected nine things you can do as active duty military personnel to reduce your energy use – and maybe even get some money back.
1) Save on Heat and Cooling
When your family heads out during the day, set back your thermostat for heat to 64°F (or 80°F when the air conditioner is running). Simply put: there’s no reason to heat or cool an unoccupied house.
Open curtains on the south facing windows to let in the sunshine in winter, and close them during the summer months to keep out the heat. When your family returns, re-set your thermostat to provide comfortable heating and cooling until your are all set to go to bed. Set back the thermostat again for overnight. You can save about 1% for every 1 degree setback for an 8-hour period.
2) Remember Regular HVAC Maintenance
Even though the privatized housing company may be responsible for repairs, we recommend some basic maintenance for your Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning (HVAC) system to save money.
- Replace your furnace air filter at least every three monthswith one recommended by the manufacturer. This allows the ventilation to work better and keeps your home’s air cleaner.
- Keep the return air registers free of obstructions and occasionally wipe dust and pet fur from them to allow air to flow freely.
- Inspect the outside heat-changer for the air conditioner every spring.
- Clear your HVAC system of any weeds, leaves, and other obstructions. Use a hose to wash dirt and accumulated muck from the cooling fins.
Just taking a few minutes to do this simple cleaning will keep your AC running at peak efficiency.
3) Keep the Weather Outside
Check the weather stripping on your doors and windows to find cold drafts. If you can close a tissue in a door or window and still pull it free, then you’ve got draft problems. Fortunately, weatherstripping is inexpensive and can easily pay for itself within one year.
Don’t crack open a window at night to let in fresh air while you sleep. The heated/cooled air you’ve paid for will leave as untreated, moist air will enter your home. Your HVAC will run longer to maintain the set temperature and humidity in your home. Over an 8-hour sleeping period, that can add up fast. If your room feels stuffy and closed, find another way to circulate air through your room.
4) Be a Fan of Fans
Fans don’t actually heat or cool, but they do move air around.
In winter, ceiling fans circulate furnace-warmed air throughout a room, eliminating cold spots. Fans pull warm air up from the center of the room and circulate it down the walls. In summer, fans keep you cool by blowing air across your body which aids its natural cooling process and makes you feel cool.
5) Turn Things Off
Get your family into the habit of turning off things not in use, including:
- Lights when leaving a room
- Televisions, game consoles, and radios
- Computers (or set them to sleep mode), monitors, printers, and other peripherals if you won’t be using them within one hour
When saving energy, every wasted watt of power adds up quickly on your electric bill.
6) Switch to LED Lights
Replace all the incandescent bulbs in your home with low wattage LED bulbs. Most of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is waste heat. LED bulbs use 75% less energy to make the same amount of light — LED bulbs can put out the same amount of light as a 60 watt incandescent bulb for only 13 watts. They also longer, and their prices have dropped recently.
7) Take a Load Off
Reduce your Texas summer cooling load. Houses absorb heat under the summer sun, becoming a load on your home’s cooling system. By not adding more heat to your home, you can lower your energy costs. Here’s a few things to avoid:
- Don’t bake in the afternoon. Do it in the evening when it’s cooler outside.
- Run your dishwasher at night. Dishwashers use lots of hot water, and their motors also produce waste heat.
- Run the bathroom exhaust fan when you take a shower. If you don’t have one, use a small fan to blow hot humid air out a window.
8) Laundry Care
Avoid small loads, but don’t overload the machine. A three-quarter full load leaves enough room for the clothes to move around the agitator and reduces the chance for wrinkles or damage. Use the “extended spin” to get as much water out of the load as possible. It will need less drying time.
During the summer, only run your dryer in the evening or early morning to help keep your home cooler. Clean lint from your dryer regularly and keep the vent piping clear. Line-dry your clothes whenever possible.
9) Refrigerator Recommendations
Check out these quick suggestions:
- Don’t over-fill your fridge. The extra space improves air circulation, keeps things cool, and prevents ice build up.
- Avoid keeping the door open for too long.
- Keep the door seals clean. Mold and mildew can grow in the door seals and prevent them from sealing properly.
- Clean around the coils and behind the refrigerator to maintain air flow. Do it every 6 months (or 3 months if you have pets).
Thanks for all you do to protect our country with your military service.
5 Helpful Tips for Saving Energy when Renting a Home
If you’re renting a house or apartment in Texas, you face limits on what you can do to improve energy efficiency on your landlord’s property. So, what can you do to be more energy efficient and reduce your energy bills?
Quite a lot, in fact. While you might not be allowed to install new major appliances or installed a smart thermostat, we’ve got 5 ways you can save energy as a renter so you can potentially lower your electric bill.
1) Swap Out Incandescent Bulbs for CFLs or LED Bulbs
If your apartment has 10 standard-sized light sockets with 60-watt (800 lumen) incandescent bulbs in them, then replacing them with 10 13-watt (800 lumen) CFL or LED bulbs uses 470 FEWER watts per hour. Assuming all 10 lights are used for 1 hour every day for 1 month, CFLs and LED can reduce your electric use by 14,100 watts (14 kWh) —or about $1.40 off your monthly electric bill (assuming 10¢/kWh). That might not be huge, but the point is that energy usage does add up.
2) Become a Fan of Fans
Ceiling fans add extra air circulation that improves air quality. So, if there is a ceiling fan in your apartment, remember to switch its spin direction to clockwise for cooling and counter-clockwise for heating.
Tip – Clean dust from the blades before you switch it or little dust caterpillars will fly everywhere.
Also, remember to change the air filter on your heating, ventilation, and air conditioner (HVAC) system every three months (or more often for someone who smokes and/ or has pets). Air filters improve air quality, but can get clogged over time and reduce your HVAC’s efficiency — and that will cost you.
3) It’s Curtains for You!
Not only do insulated or thermal-backed drapes block out the sun and cut heat gain to a room by 33%, they can also break up convection air currents around a window, which helps keep the room cooler. In cold weather, backed curtains reduce the amount of heat loss by 25%.
Tip – In winter, keep drapes closed on the north-facing windows and open the south-facings ones during the day to catch warm sunlight.
4) Program Your Thermostat Properly
Depending on your building, setting back the temperature for heating (and cooling) can save between 5% to 8%, with some savings approaching 13% in winter and 23% in summer.
If your place doesn’t have a programmable thermostat option, get in the habit of setting it back yourself. Hard to remember, yes; but think of ways to remind yourself. For example, you can program reminders into your smart phone, laptop, or just hang an eye-grabbing sign from the thermostat to flip when you adjust it. Silly? Not when you can save up to 15% a year on your energy bill.
5) Watch for Appliances that Run Poorly and Waste Energy
Often, such appliances just require “preventive maintenance” or cleaning. If any major appliance, such as the HVAC, laundry, or stove, isn’t working properly, tell your landlord. Keep at it until the problem gets fixed — after all, they’re investing in the upkeep of their property.
Of course, regularly cleaning your place can eliminate many problems before they start. Refrigerators, for example, will use more energy if air circulation around their cooling coils gets blocked with dust or dirt.
Tip — Overfilling your fridge will reduce air circulation on the inside, too, and make it use more energy.
Also be on the lookout for windows or doors that fail to close properly. Not only do these let in drafts, they can let in pests as well as turn into potential security problems.
So while renting a home or apartment in Texas may seem to limit ways for you to reduce your energy costs, you actually have far more energy efficiency options than you might realize. Learning what energy conservation options are open to you will help you save more. Plus, you’ll learn how to adapt them to ways that fit your circumstances in the future.
After all, you’re not going to be here forever – you’re just renting.