Spring Into Action: Ways to Save Money and Energy in Your Home

Laura Oakleaf

Happy first week of spring! As we say goodbye to the cold winter temperatures and transition to warmer weather, it’s a great time to think about ways you save energy and money in your home during the spring and summer months.

  • Landscaping can help keep your home cool - Creating shade for your home can cut air conditioning costs by 15 to 50 percent. By planting a 6-8 ft. deciduous tree to the south of your home, you can screen 70 to 90 percent of the summer sun while still allowing a breeze through. The tree will provide shade in the first year of planting. You can plant bushes, shrubs, or vines with a trellis to provide shade for a patio area. Plant trees on either side of your house to direct a cooling wind toward it during the summer.
  • It’s time for a check-in with your air conditioner. Heating and cooling accounts for about 48 percent of the energy use in a typical U.S. home. Before the temperatures really heat up, hire an HVAC professional to service the system and perform scheduled maintenance. Make sure to check and clean the air conditioner evaporator coil. Vacuum your registers to get rid of dust buildup as part of your spring cleaning.
  • Program your thermostat. Use a programmable thermostat to set back the temperature when you are asleep or gone from your home using programmed settings. Lowering the thermostat by 1˚F can decrease energy usage by 2 percent. According to the S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs by turning a thermostat back 7˚-10˚F for eight hours a day from the typical setting used. Also, immediately setting the temperature colder than normal when you return home does not cool your home any faster.
    • If you would like even more control and convenience with your energy use, a smart thermostat may be right for you. Smart thermostats are devices that connect to Wi-Fi and allow remote control of heating and air conditioning settings in homes through smart phones, tablets and computers. Smart thermostats have been found to reduce energy use for home heating and cooling by an average of 8-15 percent, according to ACEEE 2015. The Environmental Law & Policy Center has said that this translates to $50-$130 in annual savings for the average Illinois customer. Through May 31, 2017, there are eight different smart thermostats that qualify for up to $150 in rebates for customers that meet the eligibility requirements. Please review each of the utilities’ websites for eligibility requirements: ComEd, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas. Visit the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s website to learn more.
  • Make the most of the additional sunlight hours. By allowing in natural light, you reduce the need for lighting during daytime. However, it’s important to install window treatments such as blinds, shades or films that can reduce heat gain when temperatures rise.
  • Lighting choices can save you money. Replacing five of your home’s most frequently used lights with ENERGY STAR light bulbs could save you $75 a year in energy costs. Traditional incandescent lights only use 10 to 15 percent of the energy they consume; the rest is turned into heat.
  • Use fans appropriately. Using ceiling fans allows you to raise your thermostat four degrees without losing any comfort. Double-check your ceiling fans are running counter-clockwise to best circulate cool air -- it’s a way to get more out of your air conditioner. Also, turn off all fans when you leave a room—fans cool people, not rooms. Use the bathroom fan for up to 20 minutes after a shower or bath as it removes the heat and humidity from your home, which improves comfort.
  • Use your energy smarter with new pricing programs. ComEd is building a smart grid and installing smart meters in Cook County. This new technology can help you save money by enabling you to monitor and control your energy use. There are new programs available to you if your smart meter has been installed at your home.
    • ComEd Peak Time Savings: Earn a credit on your bill when you choose to reduce or delay heavy energy usage on certain hottest days during peak times. The credit is $1 for every kilowatt-hour (kwh) of electricity you save. There is no cost to enroll and no penalty if you don’t participate once enrolled. To participate this summer, you need to sign up by April 30, 2017. For more details, call (844) 852-0347 or visit comed.com/pts
    • ComEd Hourly Pricing: Electric prices vary hourly, but most people pay a fixed rate. Pay lower rates when demand for energy is low by signing up for this program. On average, you could reduce your electric supply cost by 15 percent with hourly pricing compared to what you’d likely pay with ComEd’s standard, fixed rates. For more details, call (888) 202-7787 or visit comed.com
  • Do you know how your home performs? Now is a great time to find out. You can get an audit from Energy Impact Illinois. It will allow you to look at your house as a whole, while helping you understand how you're using energy and get on your way to a more comfortable home with lower energy costs.

These tips were compiled from information provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. Want to learn more about how you can save energy and money in your home all year round? Visit our website or contact Sarah Edwards at sarah.edwards@cookcountyil.gov for more information on smart meter and energy efficiency programs.