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Spring and summer energy-saving tips

When the dog days of summer move in, central air conditioning may seem like the only way to beat the heat at home. But for a variety of reasons, including cost, it may not be your best option – and the good news is, it’s not your only choice. Here are some other ways to chill out.

These home improvement changes can keep you cool and save you money.

  • Change your fan – Change the direction of your ceiling fans to rotate clockwise in the winter at a low speed, pulling cool air up and pushing warm air down. The fan should run counterclockwise to push cooler air down.
  • Lower your water heater setting – Lowering your temperature setting a few degrees can also save energy. Reducing your water heater temperature to under 120 degrees can save you up to 10% on your water heater costs.
  • Keep the conditioned air in – Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans only as needed. In just one hour, these fans can exhaust a house full of warmed/cooled air. 
  • Not using it? Unplug it – Unplug office equipment like printers, shredders, scanners, and other household appliances, like your coffee maker, to prevent them from pulling energy when not in use.  
  • Plant a tree –  Planting trees or shrubs that provide shade for your air-conditioning unit can increase efficiency by up to 10 percent.
  • Don't let a furnace pilot light burn all summer. If your furnace has a standing pilot light, have it replaced with an intermittent ignition device. Then it will use fuel only when necessary.
  • Let the sun do the work – Use awnings to keep the sun out of south-facing windows in the summers, You could even plan the overhangs so that they'll shade windows from the high summer sun but let in the lower winter sun.
  • Clean your filters – Clean or replace dirty air filters at least once per month. Clogged or dirty filters make your air conditioner and HVAC system work harder, using more energy.
  • Summerize your fireplace – Check to make sure fireplace dampers are closed and fit tightly.
  • Install an attic ventilator – An attic ventilating system draws cool air up through the house and may provide as much comfort as an air conditioner at a much lower cost. Use the system to "pump in" cool air during summer evenings, then seal up the house during the day. Attic ventilation is good for the heating season, too.
  • Thermostat placement matters – Do not place lamps or television sets near your thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from appliances, and that might cause the A/C to run longer than necessary.

    Cooling units

    • Turn off air conditioners when you leave the room for several hours. You will use less energy cooling the room later than if you leave it running.
    • Trim bushes or plants near the outdoor air conditioning unit so air can circulate.
    • Make sure the clothes dryer vent does not blow on the outdoor air conditioning unit.
    • Keep storm windows closed when the air conditioning is operating.
    • Locate room air conditioners on a north wall or a side of the building that's shaded.
    • If you are using a window air conditioner, use a fan as well. It will spread cooled air without greatly increasing your power use.
    • Consider replacing old, inefficient air conditioning equipment with a high-efficiency heat pump or air conditioning unit. Heat pumps cool during the summer and provide heat during the fall and winter.
    • Before buying an air conditioning unit or system, find out its Energy Efficiency Ratio. Divide the cooling capacity (measured in Btu's per hour) by its energy requirement (in watts). An EER of 10 or more is very good, 8 or 9 is good, and 6 or 7 is fair. For the best savings, look for an air conditioner with the highest EER and the smallest capacity that will meet your needs.


    • Periodic maintenance will keep your cooling system running efficiently.
    • Make sure ducts in your air conditioning system are properly sealed and insulated, especially those that pass through the attic or other uncooled spaces.
    • Clean or replace your air-conditioning filter each month during the cooling season.
    • Sign up for Service Guard our appliance repair and maintenance service.
    • Set the air conditioner thermostat at 75 degrees Fahrenheit or higher — 78 degrees is more economical.
    • Use a programmable thermostat that can automatically raise the thermostat setting at least five degrees when no one is home; 85 degrees is ideal.
    • To adjust the thermostat manually, lower the setting a few degrees at a time rather than all at once. It's more economical — and comfortable — to raise the thermostat setting rather than turn off the air conditioner.
    • Setting your thermostat colder than normal when you turn on the A/C will not cool your home faster. It will cool to a lower temperature than you need and use more energy.
    • You can also save money and energy by installing a demand controller (Available in South Dakota only).
    • Keep blinds, shades and drapes closed during the hottest part of the day. Shut your windows during the hottest hours of the day.
    • Dim your lights. Standard incandescent light bulbs produce heat, so keep the lights low.
    • Cook during the early morning or late evening hours.
    • Use cold water whenever possible.
    • Close off unoccupied rooms by closing the vents and shutting the door.
    • Lowering your water heater temperature a few degrees can save on energy usage.
    • Move furniture away from the air registers, allowing for the free flow of cooled air.

    If you live in an area with low humidity, swamp coolers are an option. Also called evaporative cooling, these systems operate by passing warm outdoor air over water-saturated pads. The water in the pads then evaporates, reducing air temperature by 15 to 40 degrees before directing it into your home.

    You can control temperature and humidity by opening windows only in the rooms you want to cool. Unlike central air conditioners, which recirculate cooled air throughout a house, swamp coolers draw in a steady stream of fresh air.

    Swamp coolers cost about half as much to install as air conditioners and use about one-fourth the energy. They do require more maintenance, however, and are not suitable for humid areas.

    (U.S. Department of Energy)

    Like central air conditioning and split-duct air cooling systems – both of which are significant purchases – window air conditioners use refrigerant to cool the air in a room.

    Window A/C units are highly effective at cooling small spaces and are relatively inexpensive to operate. They’re also a better option than swamp coolers in humid regions.


    Whole house fans pull air in from open windows and send it out through the attic and roof. They’re designed to be used after sundown, when they can draw in cooler night air to replace the warm air in your home. Whole house fans were the cooling method of choice before central air conditioning became more widespread and affordable.

    Attic fans are meant to clear out the super-heated air from your attic. They can be used in conjunction with air conditioners to reduce the workload on your A/C unit.


    Window fans work by removing hot air from inside your house. To best cool your home, place outward-facing fans on the warmer side of your house and tightly close nearby windows, then open windows on the far side of the house. Inward-facing fans can be used in windows on the shaded side of your home to draw in the cooler air.

    Window fans use little energy. They are most effective when used in the evening, or when the air outside is cooler than the air inside.

    (, U.S. Department of Energy)

    By neglecting filter changes, you could be severely decreasing your home’s energy efficiency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends changing filters every few months but you might consider more frequent changes for optimum efficiency. Time it with your rent or mortgage payment to make it a snap to remember. Choose filters with 2-inch to 4-inch fibers instead of a 1-inch layer.

    If you and your family aren’t home during the day, it’s okay to let your temperature go up a few degrees — but too much makes your system work double-duty to cool your home. It’s best to stay within a 5-degree margin. If you set the system at 78 degrees when at home, adjust it to no higher than 82 or 83 degrees while away.

    Keeping your air conditioner in tip-top shape is a year-round endeavor. Get an annual A/C inspection to make sure your appliance is running efficiently.

    According to, if your A/C unit is older than 10 years old, you should consider replacing it. Although an air conditioner can last up to 20 years in a normal environment, it loses about 40% of its efficiency after 10 years. The newer technology can also save you up to 20% on cooling costs when upgrading.

    Summer vacation savings

    Summer time is vacation time!

    When your house is vacant, your electric bill should go way down, right? Well, not always. Many things continue to run in your home whether you are there or not. Here are a few tips to help lower electric usage while you are away:

    • Turn off your electric water heater
    • Raise the temperature of your refrigerator to 42-45 degrees
    • Put security lights on a timer
    • Turn off the air conditioning