2006_07_ask_electric.jpgMy apartment is sweltering and I have my air conditioning running all the time. I'm so afraid of what my electric bill will look like. How can I minimize the bill?

It's the dead of summer, 90% humidity in the city, and it is hard to keep cool without air conditioning. However, with many people wanting to conserve energy and electric bills skyrocketing, here are some ways you can cut back your energy usage and still keep cool. You also get to keep a little extra cash in your pocket for a refreshing margarita.

There are basic ways to try to cool your apartment without using the air conditioning. A cooler apartment to begin with means that your unit doesn't have to work as hard, equaling reduced cooling costs. Start by keeping your shades closed during the day to reduce the amount of sunlight coming directly into your windows.
If you're lucky enough to have multiple windows, on two sides of your apartment, use cross ventilation. Put a fan in the window on the cool side of your dwelling - this will pull the cool air in and push the hot air out.
On days where it's a dry heat, you can cool your apartment by wetting sheets and hanging them in front of open windows. The dry hot air will cool down as it crosses the moisture barrier. Unfortunately, this will not work in humid climates, which is NYC most of the summer.

Ok, so you've tried to keep cool without turning to the AC, but you still are sweltering. The Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Information Center gives some tips for reducing your energy usage.

Turn your AC off when you wont be there for awhile. It takes less energy to re-cool a dwelling than it does to keep it cool the entire time you are away. If you set your air conditioner at 78 degrees, you will save yourself about 15% or more on cooling costs over a 72 degree setting. Don't set the thermostat at a colder than normal setting. It doesn't cool the area any quicker, it will just waste energy. Clean or replace your filters once a month. Keep heat sources (tv's, lamps) away from your AC, the heat will make your AC run longer. The Alliance to Save Energy also says to avoid running a dehumidifier at the same time as the AC. It will increase the cooling load and force your AC to work harder.

Here are some other general energy saving tips that you can implement throughout your home to reduce the amount of energy you are using, resulting in a friendlier energy bill.

Turn off/unplug appliances you are not using.

Use task lighting instead of lighting an entire area. Dont use long-life incandescent bulbs, they are inefficient. Instead, use compact flourescent bulbs, which will save you about $40 over the life of the bulb. When buying bulbs, look for the most lumens per watt.

Refrigeration: make sure the gasket between the door and the compartment seals tightly. Keep the coils on the back or bottom clean and cool to keep it working at peak efficiency. Place your refrigerator as far away from heat sources (ovens, radiators, etc.) as possible. This in itself can prove to be a major challenge in many NYC apartments.

Most people think that they should run hot water while pouring grease down the drain in order for it not to clog. However, using cold water to rinse grease down the drain actually works better, preventing it from sticking to the pipes, while saving energy.

Cooking: Dont peek! Every time you open your oven you lose 25 degrees of heat. Turn off electric burners a few minutes before the food is done. The heat left will finish the cooking. Barbeque instead of cooking indoors!

Dishwasher - for the lucky ones who actually have one: Allow dishes to air dry. Use a cold rinse.

Many of these steps seem like very small measures but can really impact you energy usage and bill in the long run. Does anyone else have any other tips?