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Beat the heat without burning your budget

Keep cool

July 25, 2011
By JOHN PEPIN - Journal Staff Writer , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - You may end up being burned up more by high utility bills than the summer sun and hot temperatures if you don't keep in mind how much it costs to run fans, refrigerators and air conditioners.

The Upper Peninsula Power Co. has an online appliance calculator to help you determine how much it can cost to run a window or ceiling fan for a week, month or year. Visit:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials have offered a range of ideas for those hoping to keep cool on a budget this summer. The agency's Energy Star Program has suggested several low- to no-cost energy-efficient cooling tips.

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"A typical household spends almost 20 percent of its utility bill on cooling, and by taking steps this summer to improve energy efficiency, you can save energy, save money and help fight climate change," EPA officials said in a recent news release.

Among the suggestions, the EPA recommends programming your thermostat to work around your family's summer schedule. Set it a few degrees higher (for example 78 degrees) when no one is home, so your cooling system isn't cooling an empty house. With proper use, programmable thermostats can save about $180 a year in energy costs.

Another idea the agency suggests is to check your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system's air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it, but change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool, wasting energy.

The EPA also suggests running your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. The agency said to remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room make sure to turn off the fan.

Pulling the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun's rays from overheating the interior of your home can also help. If you can, move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade, the EPA release said.

Low-cost ideas suggested by the EPA include:

- Remember to have your HVAC system serviced annually to ensure it's running at optimum efficiency for money and energy savings.

- Swap out incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices. Energy Star qualified lighting not only uses less energy, it also produces about 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting, so cooling bills will be reduced, too.

- Seal your air ducts. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home's duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages).

- Make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls, and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.

The agency also suggested additional tips related to cooling on a budget:

- When buying a room air conditioner, look for one that has earned EPA's Energy Star. If every room air conditioner in the United States were Energy Star qualified, they would prevent 900 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually-equivalent to the emissions from 80,000 cars.

- Add insulation to your attic to keep cool air in. If every American household did so, Americans would collectively save more than $1.8 billion in yearly energy costs.

- Hire a contractor to seal and insulate the interior ductwork in your home (the ducts you can't reach yourself). For help on choosing the right contractor, go to

- If your central air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with a model that has earned EPA's Energy Star could cut your cooling costs by 30 percent.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is



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