Keeping it cool and saving money in the summer
Recently my wife and I made substantial cutbacks to our electric bill — nearly 50 percent from this year’s June and July billing period over last year’s. The cooler weather helped, but still.
We’ve been using two methods.First, we moved the bedroom downstairs and turned off the upstairs air conditioning. (An uncooled upstairs can get into the 90s, so be careful what you leave up there.) We run the downstairs temperatures at around 80 degrees.This works fine with floor or ceiling fans. Fans use far less electricity than an air conditioner.
Second, we keep an eye out for cool nights (high 60s, low 70s). Morning relief dominated June and extended into July, and should be a frequent occurrence in September. In the early hours when the roosters crow (as they sometimes do in Cooper-Young), we crank up one or two window fans aimed outside, then open selected windows elsewhere. A clear airway (not necessarily direct) must be provided, connecting the intake windows to the fan windows. Cool air flows in, and the house starts to breathe. The only sound we hear is that of the neighbors’ air conditioners.
If you’re fortunate enough to own one of those massive attic fans (think NASA wind tunnel) found in older homes, you know the drill.
A word about the smart meters. Make no mistake, their purpose is to influence our consumption habits, and they will. Unlike retail establishments, utilities have the unique responsibility of not being allowed to run out of product. (When you turn on the switch, you’re not just hoping there will be power.) Therefore, power plants and grids are designed to accommodate peak usage, usually occurring on summer afternoons. Another handicap utilities face: New-plant sitings are a headache for everyone, utilities included. This on account of costs, climate concerns, and NIMB (not in my backyard).
How can utilities meet higher peak loads without adding capacity? By paying its customers to cut back during peak hours. Smart meters allow companies to do just that, by using variable rates. The good news is that shifting usage from peak to off hours could lead to increasing consumer consciousness leading to conservation. Whether improved efficiencies and lower costs result in lower electric bills depends largely on who’s minding the civic store.
You can get a jump on the smart meters by inaugurating your own cut-backs during the remaining weeks of summer.
– George Grider and his wife Beverly have been Cooper-Young residents since 2001. During the 1970s he worked as an environmental consultant for electric utilities across the United States.