(ARA) - During summer, many of us look forward to fun-filled days at the pool or beach, but we definitely don't look forward to exorbitantly high cooling bills during the heat of the season.
A typical single-family home shells out $2,200 in annual energy costs, according a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. And according to the Laboratory's website, if a house has central air conditioning, even though the system is only used a few months out of the year, it is most likely the single biggest consumer of electricity, driving annual air conditioning costs that can exceed a shocking $1,000.
However, there are a number of ways you can improve the energy-efficient aspects of your home and save on electricity costs.
Seal the deal
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency in homes is to seal and insulate windows and doors. Often, this means replacing old, leaky, sticky, poorly performing windows and doors. A typical home that replaces its single-paned, clear glass windows with energy-efficient windows can realize up to $494 in annual savings, according to the EPA.
"Windows are a wonderful source of natural light, but if they are old, they can act as giant heat lamps in the summer, allowing the sun's heat into a home," says David Harrison, chief marketing office of Champion Windows, one of the nation's leading home improvement companies. "By installing our Comfort 365 Replacement Windows, homeowners can help shrink their cooling bills. Champion's Double hung replacement windows exceed ENERGY STAR rating requirements by an average of 42 percent for Solar Heat Gain, which is the measure of the sun's heat that comes through your window. Champion windows also help keep the cool air in and still let in natural sunlight - without the heat."
For more energy saving window tips check out the U.S. Department of Energy's website or Champion Window's Energy Efficient Replacement Windows
On the side
Another great way to cut costs is to increase insulation by installing energy-efficient siding. Vinyl siding and energy-efficient underlayment can increase a home's R-value, a measure of insulation's ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation. By increasing the R-value, homeowners can save more than 20 percent on their electricity bills, according to energysavers.gov.
"Installing an energy-efficient siding system, including ENERGY STAR rated insulation board, can help insulate your home against the heat, reduce the amount of air flow into your house, making it easier to keep cool air in during the summer," says Harrison. "At Champion, our customers have told us they were pleasantly surprised to see a decrease in their energy bills after their siding installation."
Other ways to improve energy efficiency and lower summer electric bills include:
* Increasing insulation in attics
* Making sure you have proper roof ventilation
* Sealing air conditioner ducts
* Keeping your blinds closed when the sun is shining in
* Using a programmable thermostat
By making a few of these changes, you won't cringe when you open those utility bills, and you might even be able to reap benefits beyond the summer.
"If homes are not properly insulated or sealed, cool air is leaking out and homeowners are throwing money out of the window," says Harrison. "By making a few energy-efficient changes to your home, you can help keep electric bills in check and even increase the value of your home."