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Record high summer electricity bills not inevitable


Published: Jul 16, 2013

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Unfortunately, most consumers unwittingly resign themselves to extremely high bills in the summer, and I believe this is where the problem starts. The fact is air-conditioning on the best of days will contribute at least 25 percent to the electricity load in any building.

We have developed a culture that has favored very low indoor temperatures, partly, I believe, through a desire to be cooled down instantly when we arrive inside to escape the summer heat. It is quite common to see persons in offices wearing sweaters because it’s just too cold inside. This misuse of air-conditioning drives up energy costs unnecessarily but can be altered through education and other proactive measures.

For consumers with children on summer break, I feel your pain. I, however, admonish you to not allow this to be a legitimate reason to allow children to burn your money – I mean air-conditioning – while at home during the day.

Ensure that they have proper supervision to play outdoors and store frozen water or drinks in coolers for ease of access to limit the constant opening of refrigerators and freezers which makes these appliances work much harder and therefore use more energy to maintain their temperature. Indoor windows should be opened and the best should be made of ceiling and standing fans.

Keep drapes or blinds drawn in bedrooms during the day to keep these spaces as cool as possible. This makes it easier for air-conditioning systems to maintain temperature for night time use and as I usually recommend, set thermostats no lower than 75°F, use the “Fan On” setting rather than “Auto” and once again use in combination with ceiling or standing fans to achieve comfort. I personally set my unit to 80°F.

For offices, I will admit to not being past utilizing the placebo effect of rigging thermostats so that staff would believe that they are changing the temperature setting, while in reality the thermostat is fixed on 75°F. If that is too strong armed for your taste, you might want to use lockable covers for thermostats. If you have a project under design, you may want to request that temperature sensors are placed in the occupied spaces and thermostats are locked away in mechanical rooms thereby restricting controls to trained personnel.

Windows should be treated to reduce heat entering in from the sun, blinds or other window treatments. Indeed lighting and equipment play an important role in adding to the load on the cooling system. Procurement strategies should be developed to ensure that the most energy efficient items are consistently being purchased, as these often also give off less heat.

Another saving can be made if persons with offices that have windows harvest sunlight by opening blinds during the day to reduce or eliminate the need to use artificial lighting.

It goes without saying that maintenance of your air-conditioning equipment is key to its performance. System size will determine the frequency with which equipment is checked and where possible implement in-house preventive programs to ensure filters are changed or cleaned regularly, grills and diffusers wiped down, and the integrity of ducts should be checked to ensure insulation has not been damaged or otherwise compromised.

There is much that can be done to curb summer time energy consumption through forward planning. These strategies once ingrained will help in reducing bills throughout the year.

• We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to sbrown@graphitebahamas.com. Sonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 15:39

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