MEMBER SERVICES Q&A: Keeping costs down in the Texas heat


Brittany Hardy, member service representative

Q: I save money by not keeping my house ice cold in the summer. But can I do anything on the outside of my house to keep energy costs down in the Texas heat? 
A: Congratulations on lowering your electric bill by turning your thermostat up a few notches! Energy experts suggest keeping your house temperature between 78 and 80 degrees when you’re home in the summer and above 80 degrees when you’re away. 
And, yes, there are some key things you can do outside to help cool the inside of your home. Start with an inspection of your air conditioning unit, a big-ticket energy user. A no-cost way to improve the AC’s efficiency is to clear debris, tall weeds and other items away from the unit so ventilation is not restricted. You may need to stock up on clean filters, too, so you can replace them every month during the summer. A dirty filter slows airflow, forcing the AC to use more energy. 
While you’re outside, study the afternoon sun exposure on your windows. Awnings can reduce the solar heat that enters your house by up to 65 percent on windows facing south and 77 percent on windows facing west. 
Today’s awnings can be adjustable and retractable, water-repellent and mildew-resistant, and they can cover one window or an entire side of your house. If it’s time to paint or roof your house, choose a light color to reflect sunrays. Metal roofs really beat the heat. 
Look closely at your windows and doors to check for leaks that allow cool interior air to escape your home. Caulking and weather stripping can prevent those leaks. 
Nature can also cool your home. Consider planting one or more deciduous trees on the west and south sides of your house to block harsh rays in summer while allowing sunshine in after leaves have fallen in winter. Plant away from power lines and use native, drought tolerant trees. A trellis for vines can also be placed in front of windows. 
Porch and yard lights can be converted to energy-efficient LED bulbs. You can also get fixtures with motion sensors and timers so lights are not on all night. 
Summer is also a good time to hang laundry outdoors. If your neighborhood has clothesline restrictions, use drying racks that can’t be seen over a fence or set them up in the garage or a back room. 
And don’t forget one of the most enjoyable ways to save energy in the summer: grilling meals outdoors instead of heating up the kitchen. Eat well, listen to the birds and enjoy a Texas sunset. 
Brittany Hardy, member service representative

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