Tips for saving money in a heatwave

July 21, 2011 (CHICAGO)

With utilities buying peak power from neighboring states at high cost to meet the demand of all those air conditioners and other equipment that's set on high right now, the cost of that power hits consumers. In fact, ComEd says, its power usage hit an all-time high peak Thursday.

A one dollar filter changed monthly can help your furnace and air conditioning units operate 10 percent more efficiently -- savings that Kevin Dick of the Delta Institute, a non-profit trying to turn the Great Lakes region into North America's most energy efficient, says is worth it

"It is really just taking the fine dirt out of the house and making sure it doesn't clog the fan and the coil that really cools your house," said Dick.

Dick says getting humidity levels below 55 percent is a magic bullet. Thursday he was around 50 percent, a jump from Wednesday when he was in the low 40s, but it was hotter Thursday. That allows him to set the programmable thermostat in the mid 70s, saving money.

Dick's home is on real-time pricing with ComEd.

"So in the middle of the night, when the price of electricity is really low, I can run my dehumidifier and it doesn't cost me as much as it would to run in the middle of the day," Dick said.

Simply drawing the shades keeps interiors cool -- and out back, beside his 20-year-old heat exchanger sits a device that allows the utility to turn off the compressor on his air conditioner for two hour periods, but keep the fan going. That simple savings through what's called "compressor cycling" ends up as a credit on Dick's bill.

Over at the Green Depot, an environment-first building supply company, they are pushing ingenious products that for not too much help homeowners manage the power the sun. An attic fan cools in the summer and increases air quality year-round

ComEd is asking people to set air conditioners at 78 degrees or higher, turn off lights in empty rooms, and put off running appliances until after 10 p.m. Businesses are also asked to conserve during the day, keep front doors closed and turn off lights at night.

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