Office for the Aging


Beat the Heat 3: Tips for Saving Money During the Summer

Everyone is feeling the money crunch these days, and especially older New Yorkers on fixed incomes. In our final installment of our three-part series BEAT THE HEAT, we offer some quick tips on how you can lower your cooling bill during the summer.

  • Unplug everything you can and put the rest on switchable surge protectors, you can potentially save yourself a lot of money and unnecessary heat.
  • If you're not really watching something and just have the television on for background noise, you can save a lot of money and heat by switching on a radio instead.
  • Switch from incandescent bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL's) as 80% - 90% of the energy consumed by incandescent lighting is wasted through heat. CFL's will also save you money in electricity.
  • Refrigerators give off a lot of heat. Move yours from the wall so air can circulate around the back of it. This will assist in cooling it more efficiently.
  • Plant some trees. If you live in a house, planting trees on the south and west sides of your home will provide enough shade in the summer (and wind blockage in the winter) to save you between $100 and $250 in energy costs annually, according to a U.S. Department of Energy estimate. Opt for deciduous trees, which shade in summer and allow light and radiant heat to pass through in the winter.
  • Try a trellis. Vines grown on trellises and can shade the entire side of a house. This can be an especially effective way to shade west-facing windows. Protect yourself from the sun!
  • Use blinds/shades! They are especially resourceful with keeping sunlight from heating up furniture such as your sofa or bed.
  • Invest in a ceiling or portable fan. These are known to be much more energy efficient than an air conditioning unit (remember to not leave fans running unnecessarily).
  • Keep your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lower the thermostat setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling. A programmable thermostat can make it easy to set back your temperature.
  • Avoid placing lamps or TV sets near your room air-conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You'll not only save energy, you'll avoid scalding your hands.
  • Use weather stripping and caulk your windows and door frames. Windows leak the cool air out and the hot air in during the summer months.
  • Make sure you have the right sized air conditioning unit for your home. The wrong-sized unit can be a terrible energy waster. If you have a unit that is too large, it will cool the area down too quickly, and your unit won't have a chance to reduce the humidity in your house, making you feel uncomfortable despite the cooler temperature. On the other hand, if your air conditioning unit is too small, it will run constantly on really hot days without cooling things down at all.
  • Save money on electric bills by changing the location of your air conditioning unit. Granted, not everyone can do this, but if you are planning to have a new unit installed, make sure it won't be sitting in direct sunlight. It will have to work harder to cool things down.
  • Check your air conditioning filter once a month. Hold it up to a bright light and try to look through it. If you can't, then it's time to replace the filter.
  • Put an insulation blanket on your water heater to save energy. Special insulators are available that are made out of fiberglass and are easy to install.
  • If you plan to repaint the walls in your home anytime soon, choose a light color and help save money on electric bills. Dark colors tend to absorb the light, and you'll need more lights (and more energy) to brighten your room.

Did You Know?
You can be a good neighbor by checking in on older residents in your neighborhood during heat waves. Sometimes it can be a matter of life or death! Older adults who do not have air conditioning are at greater risk of hypothermia and dehydration than the general population.

During heat waves, there is help available for older New Yorkers. For cooling centers near you, please contact your local office for the aging.