How to save money on your electric bill

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on June 14, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 14 at 12:17 PM

PHOENIX – Now that we’re firmly in the triple digits many people are cranking up their air conditioner. They’re also probably looking for some ways to save a few dollars on their utility bills. In that case what you don’t do can be just as important as what you do do.

Home expert Rosie Romero said there are some common mistakes people make, thinking they’re doing the right thing.

The first is something Scott Pasmore said he does – shut the vents in unused rooms.

“Don’t shut the vent,” Romero said, shaking his head. “That’s an urban myth that’s been around for a hundred years.

“In the middle of the summer, you’re asking your air conditioner to do a marathon job. Would you try and run a marathon while trying to breathe through a straw?

“When you start closing these vents – closing them completely, thinking you’re saving money – you are strangling your air-conditioning unit. You’re putting a lot of wear and tear on it, and you’re not saving a dime,” he explained.

Romero suggests cracking the vents at least 25 percent to 30 percent and leaving the door a little bit open. This will allow the air flow you’re A/C to run its best.

Another common mistake is over-insulating the attic. It’s relatively cheap to do, and it’s often advertised as being beneficial.

“In Arizona, you do not need to go above an R-30 or an R-38, at the most,” Romero said. “The attic is not the place to address high energy bills.”

Romero said the bill for a 2,000-square-foot house kept at 75 degrees in the middle of the summer should be in the $300 range. “Only half of that bill is your air-conditioning load,” he explained. “Only 10 percent of that is due to the heat coming through your ceiling.”

Romero also said you should not install radiant barrier. “I don’t know how many times I have to say it,” he said. “There is a place for it, but it’s probably not at your house.”

Using a portable fan to cool the attic does nothing more than suck the air conditioning out of your house, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

“It’s horrible,” he said.

Finally, do not use a power-factor correction device. According to Romero, even the utility companies will tell you that these devices will not save you money.

For that the things you shouldn’t do when trying to save money on your electricity bill this summer, there are a couple of actions you should consider taking.

If you’re on an “equalizer” plan, Romero suggests you get off it so you can quickly measure how the changes and improvements you make to the house pay off.

“The equalizer plan tends to camouflage the results,” he explained.

While you’re at it, make sure you’re on the right plan.

Another thing that can be useful is a whole-house energy audit. This kind of inspection will show you exactly where you’re losing money on electricity. These inspections/audits generally run about $99 and are often subsidized by the utility companies.

“That’s the best $100 you can spend,” Romero said adamantly. “It’s a whole-house physical.”

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