I’m not looking forward to summer. This isn’t because I love cold weather (I don't) or because I think I look better in bulky sweaters (I don't). It’s because summer in Houston, TX, means paying through the nose for air conditioning. I’m always on the prowl for ways to save on summer electricity costs because of this. Here are some tips that might help you too—no matter where you live!

1. Load up appliances completely before running them

This applies to your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, trash compactor, and other electricity hogs. It applies equally to your refrigerator and freezer—the more full each is, the more efficiently it will run.

Estimated costs: 

  • Average cost of one dishwasher cycle (non-energy efficient): $4.32
  • Average cost of one washer cycle (non-energy efficient): $9.54
  • Each time you run a partial cycle, you can calculate how much it costs you!

2. Wash and dry dishes and clothes by hand…and use cold water wherever possible

Washing and drying dishes and clothes by hand saves water and prolongs the life of your dishes and delicate clothing. If you’re able to use cold water, you also save money on the electricity it takes to heat your water.

Estimated savings:

  • Stop using your clothes dryer: $150+/year
  • Wash clothes in cold water: $150+/year

Bonus savings:

  • No ironing! When you opt to skip the dryer and remove wet clothes immediately to hang dry them, often you can skip ironing—and the extra electricity costs of the iron—entirely!
  • No lint! Cleaning the lint out of your dryer boosts its drying efficiency by as much as 30%!

3. Cool with the aid of ceiling or floor fans

In the past I’ve lived in many places (including India, New York, Texas, and California). Over the years I’ve developed a very healthy admiration for ceiling and oscillating floor fans. In cooler cities, I’ve been able to get away with turning my AC off at night and just using the fans to stay cool. In warmer cities, ceiling and floor fans have helped me use less AC than I would have otherwise. Yes, fans use electricity too, but even on the highest settings they will never pull the kind of power that running an air conditioner (window unit or central) requires.

Estimated savings:

  • Opting for fan-only nights: $600+/year

4. Switch to solar

If you need or want security lighting around your home, you can use solar panels to eliminate electricity costs entirely. Your savings can vary greatly based on how much lighting you need, but if you start small, you can line your walkways and add a motion-sensitive light in front and back and go from there.

Estimated costs:

Estimated savings:

5. Unplug, unplug, unplug

It goes without saying that devices and appliances that remain plugged in will continue to draw power…while unplugged items will draw no power. Your savings will vary by your power plan and how many devices or appliances you own/use, but you’ll save by unplugging whatever you have when it’s not needed.

Estimated per night costs (of not unplugging):

  • Ceiling fan: $35/year
  • Incandescent bulb: $21/year
  • Fluorescent bulb: $9/year

Estimated savings (if unplugged):

  • Unplugging household appliances and devices: $240+/year

Bonus savings:

  • Turn down brightness settings: Save extra by setting your television, computer, and other visual devices to a less bright setting.
  • Raise the thermostat: A simple raise of a few degrees can save you $300+/year. 

6. Close the fridge and freezer doors

Just leaving the door to the frig or freezer open while you decide what to eat can eat up approximately 7% of the cost of running your fridge/freezer annually. Yikes!

7. Swap out your electric provider

In many areas of the country today, electric providers are tumbling all over each other trying to win new business. Some providers even offer promotions like cash-back rebates or free energy on nights and weekends. Shop around and see what kinds of special offers you can nab.

8. Change your roof color

White roofs keep homes cooler with less energy (sort of like white cars always feel cooler than their darker colored counterparts). Inexpensive elastomeric coating can easily turn your roof white (with the help of a paint tray and roller)—and save you money as well.

Estimated savings:

  • Black to white roof: 40% reduction in energy usage; $120+/year.

9. Add programmable switches

Programmable switches are now inexpensive and user-friendly (i.e. even a beginning DIY-er can easily install one). You might spend $10-$25 on a switch but can save into the three digits by doing so.

Estimated savings:

  • Add a programmable AC and heating switch: $180+/year

10. Max out those tax incentives

Finally, when you’re ready to switch out your light bulbs, devices, appliances, and more, opt for Energy Star certified replacements wherever possible. Each replacement may qualify you for state and federal tax credits and rebates. For state perks, visit your state government website.

Estimated savings:

  • Energy Star appliances: Use an estimated 20-50% less energy than regular appliances.

Learn about federal tax incentives: