Arizona is known for its pleasant, inviting climate. However, clear skies and lots of sun comes at a price: Higher energy costs. Summers can be hot and dry and many homeowners take refuge by turning up the A/C. The day of reckoning always comes when the electric bill arrives. All is not lost, however, because there are certain steps you can take right now to receive a lower electric bill every month. Most of these don’t require a major renovation or a new cooling system but can still make a major contribution to your quest to reduce utility bill.
1. Ventilate your attic. Heat build-up inside inadequately ventilated attics can exceed 150 degrees on a hot day in Arizona. Rooms directly below an overheated attic can be as much as ten degrees hotter from infiltrating heat. This causes your air conditioner to work longer and harder to meet thermostat settings, increasing energy usage and utility bills. A powered ventilating fan on your roof pulls additional air into the attic, increasing the natural flow of circulation entering through vents. This increased circulation can reduce attic temperatures and reduce utility bill.2. Seal air leaks. On a hot day in Arizona, outdoor heat is continually seeking a way into your comfortably cool home. Once inside, that heat energy competes with your air conditioner and drives up electrical costs. Heat energy enters your home through air leaks in the structure. These are usually hidden cracks and gaps that allow heat to seep in. Gaps around doors and windows are common sources of heat infiltration as are openings such as the penetrations in exterior walls where plumbing pipes or electrical conduits enter the home. To lower your utility bill, seal gaps and cracks in the structure and keep out heat the DIY way, using inexpensive adhesive-backed weatherstripping tape and silicone caulking.
3. Check your insulation. Many houses built during previous eras of cheap energy are under-insulated. Proper insulation in the attic and walls slows the conduction of heat into your home during summer and out during winter. While adding insulation to your walls requires a contractor, attic insulation can be easily added by a handy homeowner and pays big benefits to bring you a lower utility bill. Most attic insulation is available in fiberglass batts that roll out easily between ceiling joists on top of existing attic insulation. Most experts recommend a minimum of 12 inches of fiberglass insulation in the attic floor.
4. Utilize ceiling fans. Ceiling fans date back to the era before air conditioning. However, they can be used very effectively to assist your air conditioner and reduce utility costs. A ceiling fan circulates air downward and creates a cooling feeling on room occupants. An air conditioned room with a ceiling fan actually feels about 4 degrees cooler than a room with no fan. This allows you to move the A/C thermostat up a few degrees, saving energy with no change in comfort level.
5. Investigate renewable sources. Renewable energy sources like solar can provide a lower electric bill starting from day one. A solar system tied to the utility grid reduces your electricity bill by producing free electricity all day from the energy from the sun. Excess power is sold back to your electric utility at peak prices to offset the cost of electricity used from the grid at night when the sun isn’t shining. In sunny climates like Arizona, homeowners with solar installations may find electric bills reduced to zero if other measures to increase energy efficiency are also taken.