Cool savings heat up


POSTED: Monday, May 17, 2010

I like word association games. I'll say a word and you tell me what comes into your mind.

Summer. Hot.

Summer. Higher electricity bills.

OK, so that was a word association game with myself, but you get the drift. It's getting a bit warm these days, and I've found myself returning to the air-conditioner dial on the regular.

Turns out I might be wrong on the second association with summer.

“;There is a perception that demand increases during the summer months,”; said Darren Pai, spokesman for Hawaiian Electric Co. “;It's later in the year during the early fall, September and especially October when it's both hot and humid.”;

HECO usually kicks off its annual campaign on energy-saving tips during the fall. This year the company will start the public relations campaign in August.






        » Program your cooling system to turn off when the house is empty, and turn on before everyone returns home. Resist the urge to set the thermostat cooler than normal when you turn it back on. It won't cool your home any faster.


» Maintain your cooling system to ensure it's working safely and efficiently. Clean or change your filter, usually once a month.


» Hang awnings, blinds or install film on south- and west-facing windows to block out the warm afternoon sun. Solar window film or tint can reject 80 percent or more of the incoming solar energy.




But it's still Hawaii and it can still get hot.

It's never too early to start thinking of ways to lower costs on your electricity bill, and HECO has a number of ways you can lower costs.

Some are pretty obvious.

“;Keep the windows open and let the tradewinds cool your home instead of using the air conditioner,”; Pai said. “;Use fans to circulate the air in your home.”;

Other tips aren't as obvious. This was a new one to me.

“;Plant native trees in the east, west and south ends of your home,”; Pai said. “;That's going to create the most shade for your home. It's just the way the sun moves across the sky.”;

You should also set your air conditioner to the warmest comfortable temperature. Each degree above 75 degrees will save you about 3 percent of the energy used to cool your home.

Make sure the air-conditioner unit you use is the right size for the room it cools. Large rooms would overwork smaller units, hiking up the energy bill further.

Once you figure out how to cool your home, it's time to track down those heat sources.

HECO recommends that you replace any incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, the ones that are shaped like spirals. Not only do they use up 75 percent less energy, but they last longer and don't burn as bright or hot.

Pai said other options might need more of an investment on your part but will pay off in the long term.

“;Consider roofing options, roof-coating products and fiberglass insulation to absorb the heat,”; Pai said.

Pai said to also consider purchasing a solar-powered attic fan to draw out the hot air, reduce attic temperatures and save on energy costs.

Cool air costs money, and it could leak through cracks along the window and door frames. Plug that hole in your wallet and home, and invest in some caulk and weather-stripping to plug up these drafts. Ronnie Kweller, a spokeswoman for the Alliance to Save Energy, tells that stopping the leaks could save you up to 20 percent on your bill.

And if you want to replace your cooling system, consider an Energy Star appliance, which meets guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

I might as well give another plug to the Hawaii Energy Efficiency Program, which announced last week its cash-for-appliances program.

From next Monday through June 23, the program offers a $250 cash incentive to customers who replace inefficient older fridges with Energy Star-rated appliances.

The rebates are not guaranteed and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There's about $2 million stashed aside for the rebate program. Sounds like a lot of money, but I suspect the race for cool cash will heat up real soon.

”;Here's the Deal”; helps consumers stretch dollars in these tough economic times. It runs every other Monday. E-mail Gene Park at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).