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Surviving the Heat and Costs of Summer

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Surviving the Heat and Costs of Summer
By: Congressman Lamar Smith

July 1, 2005

June marks the beginning of summer - the time of year for family vacations, backyard barbecues, breaks from school, and long pleasant evenings spent with family and friends.

It's also a time for scorching temperatures, high humidity levels and rising heat indexes. With recent local temperatures soaring well into the nineties we are in for another hot summer season.

As the thermometer rises and decreases each season, so do our home energy costs. We either run the furnace to keep out the cold, or blast the air conditioner to combat the Texas heat.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family spends $1,500 a year on energy bills - nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. These costs could further increase this summer as limited supplies of natural gas may cause higher electricity prices. As a result, finding ways to reduce energy consumption at home, which in turn will lower our electricity bills, is as important as ever before.

Conservation of energy also protects our environment. Electricity is derived from many non-renewable energy sources like oil, natural gas and coal. The more energy-efficient we become as a nation, the less we need to develop additional energy sources.

To help reduce home electricity bills and aid the nation in reducing its overall energy use, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Alliance to Save Energy have joined together in an effort to offer consumers some energy-saving suggestions. The campaign, appropriately entitled Powerful $avings, offers the following tips for summer:

*Clean or replace air conditioner filters monthly or as needed. Also, keep both outdoor and indoor air conditioner coils clean because dirt buildup reduces efficiency.

*Reduce the cooling load by shading windows. Delay heat-producing activities such as dish washing until the evening. Also, close window curtains during the day.

*Keep windows and doors closed during the day to keep unwanted heat and humidity out.

*Turn off your computer and monitor when you are finished using them, or activate the "sleep" feature so the machine powers down when not in use. When you leave a room, turn off the lights and all other energy-using equipment.

*Do full loads when you run washers, dryers, and dishwashers; wash clothes in cold water when possible; clean the lint filter in your dryer after every load.

*The use of ceiling and other fans is recommended, as it provides additional cooling and better circulation. This will allow you to raise the thermostat and cut down on air conditioning costs.

There are also a number of improvements you can make to increase your home's energy efficiency. These include ensuring that your attic, floors and walls are properly insulated, which can reduce your cooling costs by up to 30 percent.

You should also try to plug any air leaks in your home. By caulking and weather stripping all seams, cracks and openings to the outside, you can save 10 percent or more on energy bills.

Minimizing energy use at home will reduce your electricity bill and help the nation reduce energy costs. It helps our pocket books and the environment. These tips and more are found by visiting the Alliance to Save Energy on the web, at

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