BY KALEY LOCKWOOD
Buying the latest energy efficiency technologies has become an increasingly common way for people to try to reduce their monthly energy bills, whether they’re homeowners or renters. This rings true especially during the deep heat of summer, when higher energy bills result from air-conditioning units working overtime to keep homes and apartments cool and comfortable.
New and emerging technologies hitting the marketplace as the latest and “best” energy-saving products continue to promise innovative ways to effectively manage and reduce your home’s energy consumption. Some work – and some don’t.
You need to exercise caution in evaluating these products, so take advantage of the experts at your local Touchstone Energy® cooperative, agencies such as Energy Star® and independent testing labs for help. Once you do your homework, you may find that the tried-and-true methods of making your home more energy efficient are the ones you should tackle first.
Consider, for example, how one of the most effective energy savers of our time, the programmable thermostat, developed over the years. You may think that it was invented during the last 25 years or so, but in reality the “clock-thermostat” was introduced more than 100 years ago by a company now known as Honeywell. It combined a clock and a thermostat to offer automatic control of setting a lower temperature at night and a higher one in the morning.
During the 1970s, basic programmable thermostats let you choose multiple daily programs during weekdays and different ones on the weekends. And if you zoom ahead to today, you can find a $100 smart thermostat that adapts to your family’s lifestyle and is controllable from your smartphone. By shaving 10 to 15 percent off an average home’s electric bill, smart thermostats easily will pay for themselves in energy savings, which makes them a smart choice.
Obviously, not all technologies live up to their hype, and some even come with side effects that can overshadow their benefits. In addition, some of the “magic” devices only stay on the market long enough for their inventors to make a quick buck and disappear.
On the other hand, there are some new products today that merit your attention. One may be the Mistbox Air Conditioner Cooler, which claims to save its customers 20 to 38 percent on their electricity bills. This technology requires a simple installation on a home’s outdoor air-conditioning unit and works by spraying a mist to precool the air around the unit. In using this evaporative cooling method (which has been a part of industrial cooling applications for decades), your air conditioner theoretically doesn’t have to work as hard to pump cool air into your home. Interestingly, the Mistbox is sold as a subscription service that includes the hardware. You can read more at mistbox.com.
Iowa’s electric cooperatives know it’s important to help their member-owners navigate emerging technologies and provide the most cost-effective and beneficial energy management solutions. So, it’s no surprise that they recommend investing in tried and true tips such as these before exploring other possibilities:
- Add caulk or weather stripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.
- Increase insulation where necessary, but start in the attic, where more insulation will have the greatest effect and the space is accessible.
- Clean and change the filters on your heating and air-conditioning system regularly to make your unit run more efficiently.
- In spring and summer, set your ceiling fans to run in a counterclockwise direction to create a cool breeze. During autumn and winter, set your fans to turn clockwise to redistribute warm air throughout the rooms.
- Install a programmable or smart thermostat.