Hi, this is Leah from Simple. Home. Blessings. My husband and I have lived in the desert of Southern California for our entire 11 year marriage. Before I was married, I lived elsewhere in SoCal and both of us are originally from Texas. So to say that we are used to living in a warm climate is almost unnecessary. In fact, we are such desert rats, that when we leave and go somewhere where the temperature is in the 60’s, I have to wear long sleeves and pants. And living in the harsh climate we live in, we are constantly working on ways to reduce our energy bills in the summer. And we have done some drastic things in the last couple of years to reduce our electricity bills.
I thought I would share with you some of the cost-cutting measures we have taken to reduce our electricity bills in the desert, in hopes that whatever climate you are in, you can do some of them to see savings on YOUR bills.
Insulate the garage
When we moved into our home we had a garage with drywall for the first time! Oh, the luxury! But the problem was that there was nothing (!) behind the drywall in the way of insulation. And we have a problem cooling parts of the house that are not insulated. This past year, we had our insulation guys come and knock holes in the drywall and blow in insulation all along the outside wall of the garage and into the ceiling (we have a second story above the garage). The cost on this can vary based on the amount of space you are needing to insulate. But we paid about a dollar per square foot (not including the cost to repair all those holes!)
We also did a quick DIY project to insulate the garage door. You can get a kit with everything you need to insulate your garage door and it only requires measuring and cutting. It is really easy and will help keep your garage cooler, which may keep your whole house cooler.
Air Condition the garage with a mini split
You know how I mentioned some of the measures we have taken are drastic? Well, this is one of them (you would have to count the initial cost in your calculations for electricity bill and your home). We had a mini split a/c installed in our 3 car garage a while back because we really have a problem cooling the floor above our garage and were hoping this would help. We also may need to have my husband’s office in the garage someday, so it was a little bit of planning ahead. The air conditioner keeps our garage only slightly warmer than the rest of our indoor space (because it has it’s own thermostat) and is SO nice in the heat of the summer. We can park our cars in the garage and actually have them cool when we start them up in the afternoons! The cost on this can be about $1200 to $1500 + labor to cool a space 350-500 square feet. So as I said, it can be a bit pricey and you need to consider that in your calculations.
I know ceiling fans tend not to be a favorite for designers; but we live for comfort out here and we need circulating air! We have a ceiling fan in all our bedrooms, offices, and our living room. And they are on almost year round. A simple tip you might not know is to switch the direction of the fan in the winter and the summer. If the fan is going counter-clockwise (at any speed), the air will flow down into the room – so you will want this setting during the summer. If the fan is going clockwise(at a low speed), the air will be drawn up into the fan and out down the sides of the walls, distributing the heat and reducing the chill – so you will want this in the summer. Ceiling fans can be had for as little as $50, but I recommend getting one with a couple of bells and whistles (like a remote!) that looks nice with your decor.
Since we have a LOT of west facing windows in our home, we invested in some solar screens to cover them. They not only help to filter out the light, but they make a noticeable difference in the heat allowed through the glass. Since it is really not in our budget to change the windows right now, the solar screens come in handy for reducing the amount of heat allowed in our house. When the room is cooler, the air conditioner does not have to work so hard – and reduces our bills! We originally did some DIY screens we ordered through Blinds.com, but have replaced them with some custom made screens installed by a local service – they have all the bells and whistles to make taking them off to clean the windows a breeze.
This is a very recent addition to our cost-cutting routine. The idea behind shading our air conditioner is to keep the actual unit cooler to help it out a little bit (it is a hard worker!). So we purchased a simple sail shade and some tree stakes to rig it up to cover the units. This is probably one of the lowest cost solutions for cutting the electricity bill. We purchased our sail shades at Sam’s Club. We also have one in our courtyard that covers a one of our windows that receives a LOT of midday sun. These are about $15-$20.
A Programmable Thermostat
We had our programmable thermostat installed on both our units (upstairs and downstairs) a few years ago. I really like how easy ours is to program and I like that we can adjust it to suit our needs. Since I am home for most of the day with our girls, we keep our a/c at about 77 or 78 in the summer. Our downstairs one adjusts in the evening to 80-82 after we go to bed and is back on schedule at the temperature we want by the time we are ready to go downstairs in the morning. I also like that it is a good reminder to me when it is time to go to bed! I have a tendency to lose track of time while doing late night projects, so the warmer temperature lets me know it is time to head to bed! These can be had starting at $100, or about $250 for the smart ones.
We have been in our home for about 8 years and the desert sun can wreak havoc on just about everything. We recently noticed that it was time to replace our weatherstripping on our garage door and our exterior doors. This may seem like a really small thing, but it really helps to keep as much of the heat out of your house as possible. You can DIY this project or have someone come in to do it for you for about $15-$20 (+ labor).
We have done these things over time, but the combination of all of them has really paid off big this year. It can’t all be attributed to the weather, our bills have been at least $100 cheaper each month of this year! And I received my first under $100 electricity bill in the early part of the winter!
By the way, I do know that comfort is relative. And I also know that what we set our thermostat at may be too high for some and too low for others. Regardless of what temperature makes you comfortable in your home, these ideas will hopefully help you start thinking of ways you can cut down on your utility bills.
What are your tips for cutting down on the cost of your electricity bills? I would love to hear them!
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