Texas Summers are Blazing Hot.
Here's How to Play It Cool.
Count on three absolute certainties in this world: death, taxes and hot Texas summers. Texas is infamous for being one of the hottest states in the nation, and this summer will bring more of the same.
The Texas heat puts a strain on air conditioning systems, electric bills and most likely, people’s patience. To help battle the sweltering heat this summer, United has come up with five simple tips that anyone can do to combat the energy hogs that the Texas summer heat brings.
1. Timing is Everything
The easiest energy conservation measure with the most impact that members can do is adjust their thermostat settings. United recommends settings of 68 degrees or lower in the winter and 78 degrees or higher in the summer. A single degree above 68 or below 78 can cause an approximate 5 percent increase on an electric bill. These settings may seem too extreme for day-to-day living, but setting thermostats up or down during times the home is vacant can make a dramatic difference in overall energy consumption.
Consumers who don’t wish to deal with the hassle of setting and resetting a manual thermostat or programming an automatic thermostat might look at investing in a smart learning thermostat.
These devices, such as the Nest brand, have learning capabilities that sense when people are in the home and when people leave. And then they adjust themselves accordingly to help save energy when the homeowners are away by using activity sensors to adjust the temperature when it senses the home is vacant.
These thermostats learn a consumer’s lifestyle and make adjustments on its own so the homeowner never has to deal with the annoyance of constantly adjusting the thermostat.
2. Avoiding Dangerous Peaks
When members purchase a Nest, they can also save energy and money in the summer through United’s Rush Hour Rewards Program (RHR). United’s RHR program helps lower the co-op's distribution system’s demand. Demand is the rate at which electric energy is used at any instant or averaged over any designated period of time such as a 15-minute interval. United's wholesale electricity provider charges the cooperative based on the average demand it sets during the peak months (June through September).
On a Rush Hour event, a Nest thermostat will pre-cool the home prior to the event, then bump the thermostat up to 3 degrees to limit the usage from the HVAC system during this peak usage period. When members sign up for RHR, they earn a $50 bill credit from United for participating through the first summer season. In addition, they get $15 for each summer month they are enrolled (June through September)—up to $60 a year for each Nest.
Another easy program to conserve energy in the summer is United’s Beat the Peak program. Beat the Peak is a voluntary program where participants receive notifications when energy prices are at the highest. Members can sign up for this program through United’s website, then receive peak alert notifications via email or text.
Peak notifications also are posted on United’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The alerts will give tips like adjusting your thermostat, turning off unnecessary lights and major appliances. Lowering demand at peak times lowers United’s total price of power. As a nonprofit entity, United then passes the energy savings on to its members. The more people participate, the more energy and energy dollars are conserved.
These programs exemplify the very principles United and all cooperatives employ. The fourth cooperative principle is autonomy and independence. It states, “Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.” Members, through their participation, control these programs and in return, the savings help the cooperative as a whole. They help by lowering demand costs for the cooperative, which ultimately helps keep United’s electricity rates low.
3. Hitting the Fan
United always encourages using fans when possible. Research shows ceiling fans are the most effective type of fan for cooling a room with minimal energy use.
According to the department of energy, utilizing a ceiling fan allows homeowners to raise the thermostat up to 4 degrees with no reduction in comfort. Fans do not change the temperature in the home, but make residents feel cooler making it less likely they will adjust the thermostat and use more energy.
When looking to buy a ceiling fan, be sure to look for Energy Star-rated ceiling fans. These fans circulate the air 20 percent more efficiently than traditional models.
4. Hanging 'Em High
Windows are a major source for heat gain into the home. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), “…76 percent of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat.” Although the installation of low-e, double-paned or triple-paned windows has proven to be beneficial, a variety of less expensive measures can help halt heat gain.
A range of window treatments can serve as a less expensive solution to improve the thermal performance of windows. Homeowners can install insulated cellular shades as an interior energy-saving solution.
These pleated accordion-like shades have the highest R-value of all interior window shades. The DOE says, “The air pockets in the honeycomb cross-sections act as insulators, increasing the R-value and reducing the conduction of heat through the window.”
Homeowners can install solar screens outside to further reduce heat coming through windows by blocking the heat before it touches the window. Solar screens can block up to 90 percent of the heat before hitting the window.
These solutions can significantly lower the demand placed on your HVAC system at a significantly cheaper price than window replacement.
5. Engineering the Savings
Finally, United encourages members to have their HVAC system tuned up to ensure HVAC systems will work at peak performance during the summer months. During an HVAC tune up, the technician will check the unit’s refrigerant pressure and tubing and belt tension, ensure the blower unit is properly cleaned and lubricated, check the evaporator coil and filter, and will check the thermostat and its wiring.
If the system is not working up to par, most likely this will translate into a higher electric bill. This is why United offers a rebate up to $100 for an HVAC tune up. Members can receive up to $100 per unit each year by completing the tune up. Preventive maintenance on an HVAC system can also enhance the unit’s life expectancy, saving money by avoiding premature AC replacement.
For more energy efficient tips, call your local United office and schedule your FREE home energy audit or sign up online today.