We’re cruising through spring, and in many locations, it feels as if summer is already here. Well, it won’t be long and summer will be upon us, but that doesn’t mean you should wait to take advantage of some money saving ideas. For those of us in colder climates, we tend to focus on saving money during the winter months, but you’d be surprised at the number of ways you can save money this summer as well. Here are a number of ideas that can help you save money in the coming months.
Check Your Air Conditioner Filter
It doesn’t matter if you have a small window unit, or a central cooling system, but now is the time to check your filter. Just like you always hear about checking your filter in the winter, you need to make sure you’re ready to go this summer as well. Clogged filters restrict airflow and make your air conditoiner less efficient. Since these machines aren’t very energy efficient to begin with, the last thing you want to do is make it run any longer than it has to. Not only will it ensure smooth operation, but it will help keep the air inside your house clean, which leads to healthier residents, and lower medical bills.
Let Some of Your Laundry Dry Outside
Obviously, not everyone has the luxury of having space available to dry clothes outside, but if you do, this can be a great way to save some money. Clothes dryers are energy hogs, whether gas or electric. You don’t need to go so far as hanging every load out to dry, but for items like towels, t-shirts, and the like, they do very well with air-drying. Just letting a couple loads dry outside per month can easily shave a few bucks a month from your electric or gas bill.
Cooking outside has two positive benefits: it doesn’t require the use of electricity (and in some cases, even gas), and cooking inside on the stove or in the oven can raise the temperatures in the house, making the air conditioner run even more. Why come home to a hot house only to make it hotter by slaving over the stove or make the AC run an extra hour to keep the heat down when you can take the cooking outside?
Sure, there are some costs to grilling, such as charcoal or propane, but in many cases, these costs are lower than the direct and indirect costs would be needed to constantly cook indoors during the summer months. Moreover, it provides an excellent excuse to get outside. If you spend all day in an office, why come home just to spend another hour in the kitchen preparing the meal if it is gorgeous outside? Grab a cold drink, some food to throw on the grill, and spend some time relaxing in the fresh air. That alone is probably worth more than any money you might save.
Windows Are Your Friend
While this is common sense, there are a few things you can do each day to help keep your home as comfortable as possible with the least amount of AC intervention. You have windows, so use them. In the evening, as temperatures begin to fall, open the windows and let mother nature cool down the house. If you can, leave the windows open at night when it is expected to drop down to the 60s. This will gradually cool your home throughout the night.
Don’t stop at only using your windows when it is cool outside, especially if you have a two-story house. As you know, hot air rises. Not only that, but the sun beats down on your roof, typically making the second story much hotter than the first. If you have central air, this isn’t as much of an issue, but for those of you who have a window unit and only cool the main floor, this can be a big help. Open your second story window. Since hot air rises, and it is probably hotter upstairs than the temperature outside, you’ll begin to feed the hot air outside. It is even better if you have a box fan you can put into the window and actually have the air blowing outside. This will help feed the hot air out of the house like an attic fan.
This works even better in the cool evenings. Even if you don’t use your second story, you want to have both a first story and second story window open. This allows cool air to enter on the lower floor and circulate up through the house and out the second story window. Instead of trapping heat, you’re allowing it to efficiently flow through the entire house and maximize cooling.
Pay Attention to the Weather
For those of you that garden or have lawns or landscape to water, it can pay to listen to the weather forecast. Knowing when you have the chance of rain can help you keep your watering to a minimum. Why spend a half hour watering your garden or lawn today when they are calling for a rain the next two days? I see this happen a lot as I’m driving to and from work. Sometimes I see someone’s irrigation system going in the morning after we just received an inch of rain that night, or I see someone standing out in their garden watering their plants in the evening when the forecast is calling for rain.
You want your plants to survive, but just taking 2 minutes each day to stay up with the latest forecast can save you time you’d take out of your day to water, and more importantly, save water. If you have city water, you know that this translates into money, but even if you don’t, maximizing what mother nature provides so that you don’t have to use as much water is just a good thing to do.
It Isn’t Always About the Money
Sure, doing any one of these things won’t instantly cut your utility bills in half this summer, but being conscious of where you can take advantage of the summer weather will begin to add up. Save a few bucks here, 10 bucks there, and 5 bucks somewhere else, and before you know it, you’re putting $50 in your pocket each month. Even so, it isn’t always about the money. Using this time of year to break free from the indoors often comes without a price. Whether it is sharing some laughs with neighbors over the BBQ, or just getting some fresh air in the house, it is something most of us could use more of.
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Filed Under: Personal Finance
About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.
The best absolute ROI I have ever had is my grill when you add up the money saved by BBQing, enjoyment being outside cooking, and the excuse to drink beer :-)
You can get an 8 degree differential just with landscaping. Trees and vines are the most effective at cooling microclimates.
If you have a house, get rain barrels. Our local sewerage district sold them at 20 something bucks last year. They collect rainwater from the downspout and can be used for watering flowers and the lawn, or even washing the car or the dog!
You're right. It isn't always about the money. That's why I must take issue with your suggestion to cook outside to save a few bucks on electric or gas costs using an indoor stove.
If you like to eat grilled food, that's one thing, but i don't think the amount of air pollution you're generating by cooking outside is worth the few bucks saved, if you're doing it purely from an economical point of view.
Here in the northeast, more and more people are increasingly relying on wood stoves to keep their heating bills down, so we've got enough smog and unhealthy ozone days already without encouraging people to burn even more out of doors.
However, i heartily endorse your suggestion to line-dry clothes, something i do all summer long. With my long commute it's more of a challenge to time clothes washing to those weekend days that are fair enough to hang my clothes out, but I am doing just that. And i can tell you it makes a MAJOR difference in my electric bill when i don't use my dryer.