Your summer utility bills may be higher than necessary. Here are some easy ways to save energy when it's hot.
Step 1: Unplug your spare fridge Got an old refrigerator you keep in the garage? Unplug it for the summer; an inefficient unit in a hot room can really run up your electric bill.
Step 2: If you have central air-conditioning, don't close the vents to unused rooms thinking you're saving money. Research has found that closing vents reduces efficiency and cooling capacity, costing you more in the long run. And keep interior doors open throughout the house; closed-off rooms increase cool-air leakage to the hot outdoors.
TIP: Set your A/C at 78 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; home cooling costs increase 12 percent for each degree below that.
Step 3: Participate in a direct load program Ask your local utility company if they have a voluntary direct load control program that gives you energy bill credits in exchange for allowing the company to turn off your air conditioner or electric water heater for brief periods during peak demand times. It's an easy way to save energy.
Step 4: Line dry Use the hot temperatures to your advantage and line dry most of what you wash. This alone can shave 5 percent off your energy bill.
Step 5: Microwave your meals Maximize summer's bounty by eating meals that require little or no cooking. When you do cook, use the microwave if possible; it uses 2/3 less energy than your stove.
Step 6: Cut back on pool systems If you have a swimming pool, save energy by installing a timer so the pump only runs about 6 hours a day during off-peak times -- not round-the-clock. Now grab yourself a cold drink and enjoy the summer!
FACT: Texas produces and consumes more electricity than any other U.S. state, largely due to air-conditioning demand.