Summer Nemisis

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Energy efficiency has a nemesis each summer in Texas  It takes the form of your air-conditioner.

In the typical North Texas home, air-conditioning uses more electricity than any other item. It sometimes uses more energy than all other items except heat and hot water combined. While that air conditioner is delighting you with cool, dry air, its wicked partner, climate-changing carbon dioxide, slinks around our state from the plants that produce electricity. This partner not only affects your health, it also keeps both hands deep in your pockets.

The average Texas home is a carbon dioxide machine that becomes more expensive to cool each summer! Save dollars and a bit of the planet by initiating the following four very inexpensive or free steps for saving electricity.

1. Block the sun. The best way to cool your house is to keep heat from the sun out of your home. If you cannot block the sun any other way, place tall potted plants (banana plants grow quickly) between the sun and all but north windows during the late spring, summer, and fall. Move the plants as necessary to stay between the sun and your windows.

2. Use fans. If your home does not have ceiling fans, buy floor fans. Do the math: A floor fan uses about 100 watts on high speed, ceiling fans use 15 to 95 watts (depending on speed and size), and a 2.5-ton central system uses about 3500 watts. Fans work by blowing heat away from your body. This makes you feel cooler, although the air is not actually cooled. Remember to turn your fans off when no one is in the room as the fan motor contributes slightly to the heat in the room.

3. Replace your filter often. Use a pleated filter–the thicker the better. Your AC unit works much harder and uses more electricity when your filter is dirty.

4.Turn your AC off. Try turning your air-conditioner off when you leave home for even an hour. Heat gravitates to cool, meaning your home continually heats up, is cooled off, then heats up again. When you return home, turn on your ceiling or other fans and your AC. The air movement will make you comfortable while the house cools off. If your home will reasonably "keep its cool" while you are gone, this is a "free" way to save kilowatts and money.

5. Reduce humidity. When your home is humid, you are not comfortable. Down goes the thermostat.

6. Cool your attic. The hottest weather in Texas can be found in your attic. Cool that oven that sits on top of your ceiling.

Another way to use negawatts rather than megawatts.

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