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How to Save Energy When Your A/C Is Draining It

A few simple tweaks and smart appliances can help balance out your electric bill.

save energy
María Medem

A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today for more stories like this one, plus receive a $15 gift card to the Gear Patrol Store.

When summer hits in full force, there’s no shame in eschewing the sunshine to spend a little time appreciating the great indoors. Air conditioning is a modern marvel, after all. But it’s not without its cost, which can be annoyingly high during a heat wave. Fortunately, you can balance out your A/C’s enormous appetite for wattage by making some adjustments to the rest of your home.

The savings from any one change will likely add up to only double or triple digits on a year-long time frame, but the more tweaks you make, the faster that figure grows. So follow these tips for a more energy-efficient — not to mention earth-friendly — abode, one that may even be a bit “smarter” when all is said and done.

1. Turn On Power-Saving Modes

The first (and simplest) thing you can do is enable power-saving modes on power-hungry devices that feature them.

If you’ve never delved deep into your television’s settings before, now’s a great time to go spelunking. Almost all modern TVs include a variety of power-saving options, like Energy Saving modes on Samsung and LG TVs. If yours lacks one, you can achieve similar effects by pulling the curtains and lowering the brightness levels. Handy “sleep timer” settings will ensure that if you doze off, the TV does too.

Game consoles are constantly sucking down watts — especially the latest Xbox and PlayStation consoles that feature convenient always-on functionality. But the energy-saving mode on the Xbox, for instance, can reduce power consumption by up to 98 percent, according to EnergyStar. Gaming PCs and other desktop computers can be similarly persistent power hogs, unless you set their sleep settings aggressively.

María Medem

2. Use the Right Tool for the Job

If you’re looking for energy efficiency as your excuse to buy some new gear, you’ve come to the right place. More efficient new gadgets can even pay for themselves...eventually.

Motion Activated LED Light Bulb
Feit Electric homedepot.com

Using your game console as a streaming box? Knock it off. A streaming stick or the built-in software of a smart TV can reduce that power draw by up to 15 times, according to EnergyStar. And if you’re watching alone, grabbing a tablet takes about seven times less power than turning on the TV.

Motion-triggered light bulbs are more dad-tech than they are hip, but for basements and garages, they’re a simple, terrific convenience even beyond their energy savings. Brands like Feit Electric even build motion-sensing smarts right into the bulb — no smart home required.

A smart thermostat is an upgrade no “dumber” alternative can beat. Google’s Nest is among the flashier options, but even rudimentary programmable thermostats are far better making calls than you are; the EPA estimates that any programmable option can save you as much as $180 per year.

María Medem

3. Splurge On a Surge Protector

Surge protectors can do more than just keep your gear from frying; smart ones can pay for themselves by disabling outlets entirely to eliminate “vampire loads” that can cost you up to $200 a year, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Trickle Star Motion Sensor PowerStrip
TrickleStar amazon.com
$19.99 (56% off)

Power strips with “master-controlled” outlets can detect whether the primary device plugged into them is on or off by monitoring its power draw. When the master goes off, the strip shuts down power to the rest, as well. That way, when you turn off the TV, the sound system and game consoles go with it.

Motion-detecting power strips like the Trickle Star come with an attached motion-sensor and cut the power to their outlets after a set period of stillness, usually between a minute and a half hour.

Programmable power strips allow you to set a schedule for your outlets to be off and on. Some models, like GE’s 7-Day surge protector, even have programmable outlets mixed in with others that are always on.

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