July 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

The Handyman

Cool tips for saving energy during the summer

Even though this summer hasn’t been extremely hot yet, the air conditioning is still getting a good workout, and that leads to higher energy bills. And just like there are ways to keep your home warmer in the winter while lowering your energy costs, the same is true in the summer cooling season. Here are some products and techniques you can use to help keep your home cooler and more comfortable this summer while keeping your energy costs in check:

Use a programmable thermostat: Too often homeowners think turning off their air while they are at work or away from home is a good way to save energy, but in reality it can cost you more.

“One of the best ways to save on energy is to use a programmable thermostat and set it up a few degrees when you are away from home and have it go back down just before you get home,” said Denise Allard, principal program adviser for DTE Energy, (800) 477-4747, www.dteenergy.com. “If you turn it off completely when you leave to try and save energy, you allow the humidity to build up when you are gone and it will cost more to cool.”

Keep your air conditioning tuned up: if you haven’t had your AC checked by a cooling professional, you should schedule a tune up now from a company with North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certified professionals to make sure it is working at its peak efficiency. But even if you had it checked, there are still basic maintenance tasks you need to perform throughout the summer.

For example, DTE’s Allard said even if you already cleaned your condenser unit, all the fluffy white stuff from the cottonwood trees and other debris may have accumulated on the outside of the unit again, and that will make it work harder to cool your home. So keeping the outside of the condenser free from debris will not only make it work better, but more efficiently.

Keep the sun out: Of course, something as simple as closing your blinds, shades or drapes where the sun beats in can also help lower the temperature in the home and make it easier to keep cool. You can also have window film installed on your windows from a company like Michigan Glass Coatings, (800) 999-8468, www.michiganglasscoatings.com, or solar shades or awnings on the exterior from Marygrove Awning, (734) 422-7110, www.marygrove.com, to lower the level of the offending ultraviolet rays that come through your windows and increase the temperature in your home.

Lower the humidity: A big part of an air conditioner’s function is to take the humidity out of the home’s air. But even if you run the air, there are areas in your home like the basement that may need you to run a dehumidifier in addition to your AC. Remember if you are running a dehumidifier, make sure it is EnergyStar rated.

Circulate the air: You can give you air conditioner a little help by running a ceiling or oscillating fan when you are in the house or in a particular room. The air blowing on you will make you feel cooler, and you can kick the temperature up a couple of degrees on your thermostat and save money.

Upgrade your insulation and ventilation: Increasing the level of insulation in your to R-49 and improving the ventilation in your attic will keep it cooler and as a result, keep the inside of your home cooler. The proper level of insulation will be especially noticeable if you have a two story home and your second floor always seems to be hot. It is one of the best returns on investment you can make for energy savings.

Seal the drafts: Just like you need to seal the drafts around your doors and windows in the winter to keep the cold air out, you need to make sure they are sealed in the summer to ensure the air inside the home you are spending money to cool doesn’t leak out.

Consider room air conditioners: If you have central air but only really need to keep one or two rooms in your house cool, such as a bedroom, consider getting a window or portable roll-around air conditioner. If you get one that is Energy Star compliant, it will generally be less expensive to run than using central air.

With energy costs continuing to rise, you need to think about ways to save energy throughout the year. So try a few of these tips so you can keep your home cool and comfortable while saving costs on your energy bill.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail askglenn@masterhandyman.com. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536, between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.