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Survive the Expense of Summer Bills

Survive the Expense of Summer Bills

Take Charge America Offers Tips for Summer Energy Savings!
Summer--whether you view it in terms of long, lazy days of respite, or simply a turn of the season where kids are now free to terrorize you at will, it's just around the corner. With the change in temperature also comes a change in most of our habits, not always for the better.
In 2004, the average retail price of electricity in residential homes was 8.94 cents per kWh, up from 8.7 in 2003, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the United States Department of Energy. This increase is a trend that is likely to continue in the coming years.
To add to the increasing cost of electricity, the EIA forecasts that in 2005 gasoline rates will remain high during the upcoming summer months, at an average of $2.28, with the peak expected in May.
How will consumers deal with these skyrocketing costs? "First and foremost, don't panic," says Mike Sullivan, director of education for Take Charge America. "This is the perfect time for families to work together to prepare for the upcoming summer months. A few moments of contemplation and planning can net you literally hundreds of dollars of savings--money you can then put to good use to make the summer more fun and enjoyable."
Sullivan says there are many ways to prepare for the summer months that will reduce your energy usage and still ensure a cool and relaxing summer. Some of them include:
Household Preparation:
* Review your monthly electric bill. Some electric companies offer special rate plans for usage during off-peak hours in the summer. Check to see which plans are available in your area and are best-suited for your situation.
* Don't install window unit air conditioners too early in the season. If the weather turns colder suddenly, you may be forced to use heat, which may escape through a window air conditioner, wreaking havoc on your energy efficiency plan. It's best not to install the unit until absolutely necessary. And when you do, keep its usage minimal in spring. Try using a ceiling fan instead to circulate cooler air.
* Check your insulation! Poorly insulated patio doors may increase your electricity bill more than you may think. Check to see that your doors are properly insulated, especially older sliding doors. If your home is air-conditioned don't forget to close all windows and doors when the air conditioner is running.
* Increase efficiency! Shading your home or installing reflective material to windows can reduce energy use greatly. Use heavier curtains or blinds to shade east and west-facing windows. Exterior awnings can also be effective. Homeowners should consider planting trees next to their homes for natural shade.
* Reduce your hot water temperature by adjusting the thermostat and/or installing a water heater timer switch. These timers are relatively inexpensive and can be found at your local hardware store. Most can be controlled with an external switch that allows you to easily override the timer.
* Consider solar! Preheating water with solar energy can reduce your overall energy expense. There are a number of helpful websites that discuss the pros and cons of solar energy, including
* Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent lights. Use incandescent lamps only when necessary because they use more energy and generate more heat than fluorescent lights.
Landscaping and Outdoor Areas:
* Conserve water! As summer nears, many people bring out their water sprinklers and hoses to water their lawns without considering ways to save water or energy. Where possible, use drip irrigation. If you must use a sprinkler system, install a timer and adjust regularly to ensure that you are using the least possible amounts of water to achieve your goals..
* Place thin pool covers over indoor and outdoor pools to reduce evaporation and conserve water, even during the summer season. Unlike thicker mesh safety covers used during the off-season, these covers can easily be manually pulled off and on. Many people use transparent bubble covers, or solar covers, because they are convenient and manageable.
Transportation and Gasoline Mileage:
* Check the air filters in your car and replace, if necessary. Cars will run more efficiently if the filters are clean and brand new.
* Inflate regularly! Car tires should be kept properly inflated to ensure safety and longevity. Under-inflated tires will increase your car's fuel consumption, costing you more money. It only takes approximately five minutes to check the air pressure in your car's tires--a small investment that will save money and may save lives!
* When planning a summer road trip, avoid carrying items on the roof of your car, if possible. Travel light and avoid lugging unnecessary items that may negatively impact your car's fuel economy.
Purchasing Appliances:
* Check out the EnergyGuide! Research all appliances before you buy and look at its EnergyGuide label before making a purchase. The label tells you two things: the product's estimated energy use in kWh/year in comparison to similar models, and the product's estimated yearly operating cost in dollars, which is based on the national average cost of electricity. The information is right there for you--don't neglect to read it!
About Take Charge America:
Founded in 1987, Take Charge America, Inc. (TCA) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization headquartered in Phoenix, AZ. TCA is committed to helping consumers gain control of their finances and offers a variety of services including education, budget and financial counseling, and when necessary, debt management.
TCA also serves as an effective resource for the business community. We help financially distressed consumers re-organize their finances and return hundreds of millions of dollars annually to financial institutions, professional service providers, and businesses of all sizes and descriptions that may otherwise have been lost to the economy in bankruptcy. TCA's diversified programs are utilized by tens of thousands of families and single men and women throughout the United States each year.

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