(Above) iStock.com/vchal, (below) iStock.com/mperkins
Summertime is here.
That means two things: rising temperatures and rising utility bills.
Homeowners can’t do anything to control the mercury. They can take steps to make their residences more efficient and be more environmentally friendly along the way.
After all, houses use 22 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. About half of that expense comes from cooling and heating.
However, the effective use of vegetation and other eco-friendly approaches can not only beautify your property but also cut cooling bills during these warmest months by as much as 40 percent, the DOE estimates.
Here are six approaches to consider:
Direct sunlight can quickly spike temperatures inside the home, especially in those topped with dark-colored roofs that act as heat magnets. Think about standing under a tree and the coolness you feel – almost immediately – thanks to the leafy canopy. The same effect happens with a home.
The air temperature can be as much as 25 degrees cooler when under cover, which helps keep indoor temperatures at bay and doesn’t require the air conditioning to work as often or as hard.
Keep greenery away from AC units
Shrubs, small trees and vines provide much the same benefit as trees, just on a smaller scale. Their use around an outdoor AC unit actually can increase its efficiency by as much as 10 percent, according to the Department of Energy.
But without proper tending, the greenery can creep into units and hamper functionality or block airflow.
Find plants that require less water
Shrubs and bushes don’t just look good. They don’t need much water to thrive.
Flowerbeds require a little strategy. Group like plants together that share similar water needs. That way, pouring a good amount of water in a single area will spread across a smaller space and adequately feed the plants that need it.
Aerating soil – using a spike or other sharp object to punch shallow holes in the dirt – improves water flow to plants. Also, consider watering in the morning when evaporation rates are low.
Mulch provides benefits, too, by keeping plant roots cool, slowing evaporation and minimizing weed growth, all of which reduces the need for water.
Use environmentally friendly lawn products
A growing number of lawn care companies are realizing the negative impact that using some of their products can have on the environment, seeping into the ground and washing into creeks and tributaries. Recently, many have dialed back the levels of harmful chemicals and turned to more environmentally friendly ingredients. Some cleaners now consist of soy, and others have gone away from phosphorus to a slow-release nitrogen.
Let it grow
Many lawns require regular watering to achieve their lush appearances. To reduce the liquid need, slightly raise the blade on your lawnmower. A yard with taller grass retains water longer – whether it’s the water sprinkled from a hose or the precipitation and condensation collected from the atmosphere.
Dip into a (swimming) pool of ideas
Check for leaks
An easy way to help measure water loss in a pool is to add a mark at the water line and check it every 24 hours for major changes. To incorporate technology to catch leaks the moment they occur, consider installing a smart water-monitoring device. Such units, connected to sensors around the pool, provide real-time leak alerts that can save hundreds of dollars each summer and offer much-needed peace of mind.
Keep it covered
Covering a pool will help prevent water loss due to evaporation, so gallons of water won’t continuously have to be pumped into it. Additionally, using a pool cover during the active seasons will help keep the pool clean and reduce maintenance costs.
Invest in solar heaters
One of the newest eco-friendly ways to reduce energy waste is with solar heaters. These devices work when water is pumped through a filter, is heated as it passes by solar collectors and is then return to the pool. This process can keep the pool running efficiently all year long.