By Nidia G.

With summer just around the corner, you need to prepare both your wallet and your house for those elevated electricity bills. The last thing you want is to open your bill and realize you won’t be able to take the summer vacation you had planned.

Here are a few suggestions to help you save money and energy during the warmest months of the year.

Keeping your cool
There’s no doubt your air conditioning will be on all summer, and it will likely be your biggest source of energy use. First, using a programmable thermostat can help you customize a temperature pattern to fit your busy lifestyle. Experts recommend you keep your thermostat at 80 degrees when you aren’t home, and have it programmed to cool your home to a comfortable temperature 30 minutes before you’re expected to arrive. Basic models are very inexpensive, the installation is relatively simple,
and it could save you up to 10 percent on your electricity costs.

Next, make sure you’re taking proper care of your AC unit to maximize its energy efficiency. Have a licensed air conditioning technician perform a tune-up every year before the summer arrives. They’ll find any possible issues with the system and clean out any buildup that could cause problems down the road. In addition to this, making sure your air filter is changed in a timely manner will ensure your AC isn’t working any harder than it has to. Be nice to your AC, it’s keeping you cool!

Window shopping
Preparing your windows for summer is another great way to save some cash. Sealing all your windows and doors to make sure air doesn’t escape will help you save, without putting a strain on your wallet. If you have the money to spend, investing in double-pane Energy Star® windows is another great way to save money on your electric bill. While it could take 10 or more years to recoup the full cost of this investment with just the money saved on energy bills, there could be other benefits, like improving your home’s curb appeal and sound insulation. Another less-costly option is to install exterior shade screens on your windows to keep the heat out.

Electric avenue
In this day and age everything is electronic; therefore, we have to be even more conscious of what is using power. Your TV, for example, continues to use power when it’s plugged in — even when it’s turned off. To prevent this from happening, use a power strip to connect your TV, DVD players and gaming consoles to electricity. When you’re not using these, simply flip the switch and save!

Another household appliance we don’t typically think about when we think of energy consumption is our water heater. If you own an electric water heater, setting the temperature to 120 degrees can help save you money on water heating costs. (Just make sure you turn off the breaker first.) During the Arizona summers, this temperature is typically very comfortable for most people.

Plan to save
Many utility companies offer great energy plans to fit most people’s needs, including options for cheaper power when you’re not in “peak” usage times. If you still feel you’re using more electricity than necessary, you can have your home professionally assessed to make sure it is energy-efficient. Your power company can provide recommendations and more information about rebates for completing an energy audit. In addition, they may even offer rebates on solar water heaters and shade trees to keep your house cool.

Credit Union discusses home energy savings in Phoenix