Energy efficiency tips to 'Beat the Heat' in Houston's hot months

As the weather in Houston gets hot, there's a cost connected to where you set your thermostat, and there are strategies to stay comfortable while not breaking the bank. 

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Thankfully, the forecast for electricity rates to fall moderately in Texas, after their highest rates, since deregulation last year. Cheaper natural gas, and more solar and wind capacity all contribute to that. 

However, how much electricity you use is completely dependent on how efficient your home is, and your lifestyle. Bill Clayton, from Reliant Energy, says every decision that affects the comfort in your home, especially during Houston's hot months, hits the bottom-line on your budget. 

"We have a lot of influence over how we can manage our day-to-day to get the most out of energy dollars spent," he says.

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Not surprisingly, the air conditioner is the biggest culprit in raising your electricity bill. It eats up 60% of your bill. Using a programmable or smart thermostat to maintain a reasonable temperature can find the biggest savings. While many will argue about how cool to keep their homes, a recent article from Consumer Reports suggests the sweet spot is 78 degrees when you're home, 85 degrees when you’re away, and 82 degrees when you’re sleeping. 

Reliant isn't picking sides in that conversation. 

"What we can say is that for every degree that you raise your thermostat, you can save anywhere from 5 to 7% on the cooling-portion of your bill," says Clayton. 

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You can also help by shutting the blinds, or shades, on the sunny side of the house. Also, use a fan in occupied rooms. They move the air to cool the body, and only cost pennies to run. 

"We recommend that you raise your thermostat two degrees; never turn it off; and you run your fans," says Clayton. "It will make you feel three degrees cooler, so you've offset the cost of your air conditioning unit by turning on the fans."  


Also, when you leave the house, if you're going to be gone for four hours, or more, turn the thermostat up four degrees. 

Reliant says that's the tipping point between saving money and paying to cool it back down when you return. If you've got questions about best practices in your home, Reliant also has a free audit service available for its customers to help identify places where savings can be found on their website.