Keep Cooling Costs Down While Staying Home Due to COVID-19

As 90 degree heat waves sweep the country and people spend most of their time at home due to COVID-19, Americans are looking for ways to keep costs under control.

New research conducted by the device behavior experts at Sense (sense.com) and SurveyMonkey shows that nearly all Americans (91 percent) are staying home more this summer due to work-at-home policies or camp and school closures.

More than 3 out of 4 Americans (78 percent) say they’re concerned that home energy costs will be higher than usual as a result, but only 6 out of 10 are taking steps to reduce their energy consumption.

The survey showed that many Americans aren’t taking simple steps that could reduce their home energy bills this summer, such as adjusting HVAC settings, taking advantage of energy savings programs offered by utilities or installing smart thermostats.

And only a fraction of Americans know exactly how much their air conditioner is increasing their utility bill.

Less than half (44 percent) plan to turn up their thermostat settings to keep a lid on costs, which is one of the simplest ways to reduce summer energy bills.

Most people (90 percent) prefer to set their thermostats below 78 degrees, the temperature recommended by the US Department of Energy to stay comfortable while minimizing your utility bill. In fact, the most popular setting was a cool 68 to 72 degrees.

The research shows that the most popular energy-saving measure will be to use fans as much as possible rather than air conditioning (55 percent), while about a third (35 percent) plan to turn off their AC entirely and open windows to stay cool.

Turning off the AC and using a fan instead is a smart move because HVAC systems use so much more energy than an electric fan.

A surprisingly small number of people are turning to smart home technology to reduce their energy costs.

Only 24 percent have or plan to install a smart or programmable thermostat for the first time and only 10% plan to install a home energy monitor to see what’s using energy in their home.

Smart thermostats have demonstrated significant energy savings, and home energy monitors provide detailed insights into energy usage that can lead to savings of 9 percent or more.

Nearly half (45 percent) of those surveyed didn’t know if their utility offers rebates or free home assessments for smart thermostats or air conditioning upgrades. In fact, many utilities offer these kinds of incentives to residents.

One of the biggest challenges for most consumers is simply knowing how much it costs to operate their air conditioning.

Only 1 out of 5 Americans can estimate very accurately how much air conditioning contributes to their total utility costs. Another fifth of respondents (22 percent) believe their estimates are not at all accurate and the remainder could only estimate somewhat accurately.

According to the experts at Sense, here are some proven techniques that will help people save money on their utility bills this summer.

Switch from air conditioning to fans when outside temperatures and humidity are low.

Don’t run your HVAC’s internal fan continuously. It uses about 500W and could add $60 to the average monthly bill. Also, the ducts in your attic and outside walls can fill with warm air, which you are then blowing back into your living space.

Try setting your HVAC at the highest comfortable setting, and use fans to create a cooling breeze.

Clean HVAC filters and perform other maintenance regularly. Keeping your HVAC running efficiently will reduce electricity costs.

Reduce energy use across your entire home. Turn off consumer electronics and other devices that stay on continuously. Always-on devices account for 23 percent of the average electric utility bill, costing $308 annually.

Founded in 2013 by pioneers in speech recognition, Sense uses machine learning technology to provide real-time insights on device behavior, even for those devices that are not “smart.” Customers rely on Sense for a range of uses including monitoring their home appliances, determining whether they left appliances running and identifying how to reduce their energy costs.

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