12 Ways To Save Electricity Outside of Your House

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There are so many good ways to conserve energy, but you may not know where to start.

As part of a continuing series that explores room-by-room energy savings, we’ve suggested low-cost ways to save electricity in your home office, kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom.

But there’s not just opportunity for savings indoors. Today, we move outside to consider ways to save electricity in the backyard and around the perimeter of your home. 

Help Your Outdoor Cooling Unit Operate Efficiently

  • Schedule regular maintenance of your cooling equipment. Having a licensed professional examine your outdoor unit can help make sure that it’s functioning at its highest capacity and not wasting energy through leaks and has the adequate level of coolant. The inspection also should include checking and cleaning connections, examining the motor and testing belts.
  • Ask questions. Learn how your air conditioner, evaporative cooler or heat pump functions best.
  • Clear away debris from your AC unit. Those outdoor condenser coils can become dirty especially quickly if the surrounding environment is dusty, and coils can easily fall victim to falling leaves and lawn mower scraps. The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) recommends washing the outside coils of your AC unit, clearing away high grass, leaves and any other debris.
  • Improve airflow to your unit. Trim foliage back at least 2 feet to allow for adequate airflow around the condenser, recommends Energy.gov.
  • Use nature’s coolant. The PUCT suggests adding trees and shrubs on the east, west and south sides of your home to keep it insulated naturally and cut your electricity costs. Not sure which plants are right for your house? Visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s website, ArborDay.org, for tools and information.

Make Sure Pool Time Doesn’t Mean Wasted Energy 

  • Consider the heater. Reduce swimming pool heating costs by considering a high-efficiency or solar heater. Energy.gov also makes several recommendations about size, efficiency and costs to consider with gas pool heaters.
  • Use a pool cover. Evaporation is the largest source of energy loss. According to Energy.gov, covering a pool when it is not being used is the most effective way to reduce pool heating costs—and to save electricity. Savings of 50%–70% are possible. Choices include a bubble/solar cover or those made of vinyl and insulated vinyl. Pools do gain heat from the sun so consider this when selecting the level of transparency of the pool cover.
  • Manage the water temperature. Pool water temperatures typically range from 78 degrees to 82 degrees. The American Red Cross recommends a temperature of 78 degrees for competitive swimming, but that could be too cool for young children and the elderly, who may require temperatures of 80ºF or higher. In general, the energy consumption for each degree rise in temperature will cost 10%–30% more in energy costs, depending on location.
  • Mind the pump. Set the pool pump to run early in the morning or at night to avoid peak electricity demand hours.

Consider More Efficient Outdoor Lighting

  • Harness sunlight for outdoor lighting. Using outdoor solar lights to illuminate everything from sidewalks and pathways to patios and driveways is an effective, easy and virtually maintenance-free way to tame your electric bill. Outdoor solar lighting systems use solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity. The electricity is stored in batteries for nighttime use. Outdoor solar lighting systems work well in most areas of the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Consider, however, where the lights will be placed. A solar lighting system only will work well as long as the solar cells receive the requisite hours of sunlight.
  • If you don’t use solar lights, replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LEDs. Despite a higher initial cost, both CFLs and LEDs last considerably longer than incandescents and require up to 80 percent less electricity to operate, saving you money and time in the long run. For a complete comparison breakdown, read Everything You Need To Know About Light Bulbs.
  • Make motion sensors, photo sensors and timers do the work for you. All three of these tools are useful for outdoor security and utility lighting, providing lighting when you need it in the most efficient manner possible.

Sources: Energy.gov; PUCT

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