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News / Life / Clark County Life

Energy Adviser: Keep cool without burning money

By Clark Public Utilities
Published: May 25, 2024, 6:06am

Air conditioning is a summertime necessity for many in Clark County and while it helps take the edge off the hottest part of the year, air conditioners consume a lot of power and can drive up your energy bill.

The experts at Clark Public Utilities recommend customers think about summer air conditioning like they do winter heating: use it to be comfortable but remember that leaving it cranked up and running around the clock can drive energy bills sky-high. Plus, there are many low-cost and no-cost ways to be comfortable.

Here are tips to keep your home safe while balancing personal comfort with energy efficiency this summer:

Proactively precool. Opening windows overnight or early in the morning (so long as it’s safe to do so) then shutting them before the temperatures rise will trap cool air inside. If that isn’t an option, precooling the home with air conditioners when outdoor temperatures are low enables air conditioners to operate more efficiently and reach a lower temperature.

Be cool, not cold. Focus on being comfortable, not chilly indoors. Every degree you raise your thermostat saves you energy. Leaving the thermostat at 75 degrees strikes a good balance between personal comfort and affordability.

Set your air conditioner to “auto” instead of “on.” Auto tells the AC unit to shut off once it reaches your preferred temperatures and kick on as needed to maintain it. “On” leaves the system running continuously and which can result in wasted energy.

Remember the 20-degree rule with air conditioning. Most AC systems can’t lower an interior temperature less than about 20 degrees than the outdoor temperature. So, if it’s 95 degrees outside, an AC unit set to 70 might run and use energy all day without ever reaching it. Setting the AC to within 15 degrees of the day’s highest temperature will balance energy efficiency and lower costs.

Fans are your friends. Whether on the ceiling or the floor, fans use a fraction of the energy of air conditioning but can be just as effective at helping you cool off. If your home has central air, setting the thermostat to “fan” can create a comforting draft throughout the house without the extra energy usage of an air conditioner.

Treat your home like a cooler. That is to say, keep it cool and shut tight. Keep doors and windows shut during the hot parts of the day. Then shut the blinds or the drapes on the sunny side of your home — typically the south and west sides — to stop the greenhouse effect. It’s even better to shade windows from the outside with outdoor blinds, shutters or awnings.

Avoid making residual heat. The hottest time of the day in Southwest Washington is around 5 p.m. — just in time for dinner. When possible, avoid using the stovetop or the oven to make meals. Smaller appliances like air fryers, toaster ovens or even cooking outdoors will help your home stay cooler, longer.

Hit the town — or the showers. If your home just can’t cool enough, consider visiting the library, the mall, going to a movie or a community center for a few hours. Running through the sprinklers in your yard might earn some funny looks from the neighbors, but there’s no beating the immediate relief of cool water. Often a cool shower can provide immediate, long-lasting relief.

The Clark Public Utilities Energy Counselor of the Day is always available to offer tips to saving energy and staying comfortable. Contact them at ecod@clarkpud.com or 360-992-3355 during business hours. Information is always available at any time at www.clarkpublicutilities.com.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98688.