Summer vacation can be a recipe for high electric bills if kids are home all day. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that 9 percent of Americans’ household energy costs are dedicated to air conditioning alone, so try these tips to keep costs down when the temperature rises.

Avoid ‘phantom’ load

Get your family in the habit of turning electronics on and off via power strips as they move from one activity to the next. As electronics and appliances become more technologically savvy, they often draw power even while turned off. A good indicator of this—called “phantom load”—is to check the device for a light that stays on all the time.

Phantom load will add a few watt-hours to energy consumption, but a few watt-hours on each of your many electronic devices adds up. To avoid this silent power draw, unplug the device or invest in a “smart” power strip, which allows certain electronics—like a cable box, which takes time to reboot after it’s been unplugged—to continue using electricity while others can be completely shut down.

Air-conditioning units

More people in the house + doors hanging open from the last trip to play outside + high temperatures = an air-conditioning unit that has to work harder to keep the house cool. Be sure to adjust settings to maximize efficiency, such as using the “auto” function instead of keeping the fan running all the time.

Regular maintenance to keep your air conditioner or heat pump in good working order is a good idea, as is checking and changing the air filter every few months or if it’s dirty.

Also, set your thermostat as high as you can while maintaining your comfort level—the smaller the difference between indoor air and the great outdoors, the lower your cooling costs will be. And make sure to rearrange your furniture so that appliances that put out a lot of heat aren’t near the thermostat.

Keep the pool covered

About 70 percent of the heat lost from swimming pools results from evaporation, caused by both wind and water. That means tap water goes to refilling the pool, which means higher electric bills to reheat the water.

To save energy, cover a pool when it’s not in use. Pool size and shape factor into choosing the right cover. The most expensive pool covers are incorporated into the pool structure and can come with an automatic retraction and storage system. Manual covers may be cheaper, but removing them can be a dirty job. You can also choose solar covers resembling bubble wrap.

Your electric cooperative is a resource

As you work this summer to stop energy drains, don’t forget about Access Energy Cooperative’s free energy audit program. Our energy efficiency experts can help you determine the right steps for your home, including whether an energy audit will help find more savings. You can also visit to find out how little measures around the house add up to big energy savings.

Sources: Megan Howard; U.S. Department of Energy; Cooperative Research Network

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