From The Denver Post (Susan Clotfelter):
Every time it rains in Colorado, we tend to forget we live in a high desert. Every time we’re blessed with a cool spring, we tend to forget that come mid-June — or sooner — it’s going to get hot. Summer’s onset reliably brings a bumper crop of ways to save money on energy and water. Here are a few.
1. Maintain your air-conditioning system. If it’s a whole-house unit that relies on your furnace to move cooled air, change furnace filters. Remove the winter cover; trim weeds or grass around the unit, and book a pro to check on the evaporator and condenser, which are usually sealed. Consult websites like howstuffworks.com or familyhandyman.com to clean the parts you can access. Indoors, clean air-return ducts and clear clutter from around them.
2. That ’80s staple, the ceiling fan, can be a great way to keep a space comfortable without turning on the air conditioning. If you’ve got one, turn the reversible switch so that it rotates counterclockwise for the warm season. And hey, while you’re up there? Dust the blades. Clean machinery lives longer.
3. Got energy audit? Sign up for one. Check your utility provider or municipality’s website; some subsidies and bargains remain to be had. A certified pro will visit your home and find your biggest energy (and money) drains and help you fix them. If you got an energy audit done, but haven’t acted on its recommendations yet, pick one of the top three.
4. Use less water. My own energy audit included easy ways to save on this precious Colorado commodity. My auditor installed a kitchen-faucet aerator and a balloon in the tank of my one non-low-flow toilet (which I’ve since replaced).
My top-loading, late ’90s washing machine refuses to die so that I can justify a high-efficiency machine, but I’ve learned to cut back on its use it by combining loads. I also hang most of my laundry to dry, which trims dryer use (and extends the life of my clothes).
5. Waste no water. Sprinkler system? Get it checked, or check it yourself, to fix or adjust any broken or wasteful heads. And check Denver Water’s website (denverwater.org) for water-saving tips that still allow you to have a beautiful summer landscape. You can also use what I call the Thrifty Girl’s Drip Irrigation system: Put a plastic tub in the kitchen sink and a 3- to 5-gallon bucket in the shower to collect the water that runs while you’re waiting for the flow to heat up. Use that water in the garden on shrubs, perennials or larger vegetables by pouring it into a second bucket with three or four quarter-inch holes in the bottom. Put the pierced bucket in the garden to drip-water plants. If you’re fussy about how that looks, paint the bucket.
More conservation coverage here.