Sense Blog
Smart thermostat energy monitoring

We’re Having a Heat Wave!

During these warm summer months, energy use can skyrocket, and your electric bill can too. Check out these tips for beating the heat and saving on AC.

It’s been a hot summer, with record heat waves on all four continents. In the US, July heat waves stretched from the southwest to the northeastern states, making the entire country feel tropical, and the heat has not let up in many areas of the country.

The heat has been so brutal that 2018 is on pace to be the fourth hottest summer on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – exceeded only by record summer heat in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

With climate change bringing more extreme weather, our summers are getting hotter and longer, which means air conditioners are working harder to keep homes comfortable. Since heating and cooling make up about 35% of energy usage in the average home, these hot summers have a real impact on home energy costs.

If you’re not looking forward to another high utility bill, now is a great time to set goals to make your home more efficient in the remaining hot weeks of summer and early fall. Here are a few tips for reining in your utility bill and keeping your budget on track.

  1. Check your home’s Trends. Look at last summer’s utility bills as a baseline for potential billings for the last weeks of summer. Then in the Sense app, check the Trends section to see how your energy usage has been trending in June and July. Depending on your local climate, August and September will probably look pretty similar.
  2. Set a Goal for energy usage. Here’s where Sense can be the fitness tracker for your home. Decide if you’ll be motivated more by a stretch goal that challenges your ingenuity, like a 20% energy reduction, or a goal you’ll reach more easily, like 10%. Calculate what that goal will be for the coming month, either in billing or energy usage.
  3. Setting a Goal in the Sense app is easy. Just navigate to Trends and tap the Goals card at the top. To create a Goal, tap “Add new goal” at the top of the page. To track your whole-home usage, set the Goal for “usage.” You can set goals for various points in time, including by day, week, month, billing cycle (if you’ve already set your billing cycle in the Settings screen), or for “any point” in time.

  4. Set up notifications in the Sense app to stay on track with your Goals. For instance, you can set a goal to spend $10 less on your electric bill next month, and get notification alerts that will tell you if your energy usage is trending too high to meet your monthly goal.
  5. Put your home on a fitness program. To make your HVAC more efficient in the late summer heat, start with this checklist:
    • Perform routine maintenance you might have overlooked in the spring, such as cleaning the HVAC filters and coils.
    • Set the temperature 2-5 degrees higher. For most people 75 degrees is comfortable because A/C units reduce humidity, making the air feel cooler.
    • Use ceiling fans to circulate the air and create a breeze, but remember to turn them off when you leave the room.
    • Program your thermostat to 80 degrees when you are away at work or on vacation. You’ll need to wait for the house to cool down when you return home, but you’ll save money.
    • Cool just one zone for a pet left at home rather than the whole house.
    • Check the outdoor temperature in the evening; if it’s below 70 degrees, turn off the HVAC and open your windows to take advantage of nature’s free cooling overnight.
    • Set your central A/C to auto so the fan only runs when the system is cooling the house and shuts off once the desired temperature is reached.
    • Close curtains and lower shades during the day to reduce solar heating.

    The Department of Energy’s guidance on air conditioning and their Energy Saver Guide provide many more tips for keeping your home more efficient so the cool air stays indoors.

  6. Pat yourself on the back! We hope you meet your goals, but even if you don’t, taking action to reduce energy usage means that you are saving money, reducing carbon emissions, and making your home smarter, greener and fitter.