Yes, it’s that time of year where everyone and their brother bombards you with a list of things to do around the house. We don’t want you to stress, so the very first thing you should do is go out and enjoy the weather. Take a walk, get your bike out of the garage, or take your family out for a picnic for the afternoon. It’s important to take time out for yourself and for those who are important in your life.
Once you’ve taken care of yourself, then you can start looking around the house for things to work on. Here are a few ideas that can help you save energy and money during the warm and sunny months ahead. Some of them are just tiny little things that take a moment, and others are larger projects that require more thought and planning. Do what works for you; even the little stuff helps.
Dust those lights
This is one of the easy ones that often get overlooked. Light fixtures and light bulbs themselves accumulate a lot of dust. Additionally, the spiral shape of modern CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) creates much more surface area for dust to settle on, while making it that much more difficult to effectively clean.
A recent paper examining the effects of surface debris on light output found that even a relatively small amount of dust and dirt could lower the light output of a white LED by nearly 40%, while large accumulations of dust lower light output by 60%. That means a clean bulb can put out just as much light as a dirty bulb that uses twice as much energy! In order to most effectively clean light surfaces, try using an air compressor or a can of keyboard cleaner to blast out all of that hard to reach grime.
Use clotheslines and drying racks instead of an energy-powered dryer
This can be tricky if the weather isn’t cooperating. But when the weather is warm and dry, why not use the sun to dry your clothes? It’s a lot cheaper than using your dryer unnecessarily. Some people don’t like the initial stiffness of air-dried clothes, but throwing a fourth to half of a cup of vinegar in with the clothes during the wash cycle can give you softer line-dried clothing.
Clean your windows
Cleaning the windows in a great idea for the same reason that you should dust your electric lights. As we saw above, dust and dirt absorb a lot of light, so keeping the windows shiny can cut down on the need for using the lights during daylight hours.
Change the filters in the AC and furnace
Springtime is the best time as any to change out those dirty air filters. While many Canadians don’t have to bother with air conditioners, the warm weather is a good opportunity to make sure that the furnace has clean filters before the winter months roll around again.
Use fans instead of the air conditioner
If you are one of those who lives somewhere where the weather gets warm enough to justify air conditioning, having an A/C doesn’t mean you have to use it. Open the windows on the shady side of your home or apartment, and use a fan to bring in the cooler air. If it is absolutely necessary to use your air conditioner, a couple of well-placed fans can help the cooled air circulate more efficiently, cutting down on the amount of time you have to leave the AC running.
Redo the caulking and seals around your doors and windows
Using air conditioning in the summer and your heater in the winter won’t do you much good if all the air you want to keep in the house is instead leaking out into the world around you. Check them over carefully, and replace any rubber seals that are cracking, or caulking that is falling apart. It’s a lot more pleasant to work on your house when it’s nice out, than waiting till winter.
Add plants or trees for natural shading
If your house gets uncomfortably warm in the summer, plant bushes or even trees on the sunny side of your home, instead of cranking up the AC. Plants not only block sunlight, but also release heat through the water vapor that their leaves release. The air temperature next to plants and trees can be 5°C cooler than the ambient air temperature, and can cool air near the ground by as much as 14 degrees. Watering a few extra plants now and then is a lot less expensive than having to run an air conditioner.