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Plugged In

More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives

10 tips that can help you save energy this summer (videos!)

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Ugh. We hit our first triple digits in Austin this week. I love summer as much as the next person, but the heat becomes a little ridiculous here. Summer here means finding relief in swimming pools and the air conditioned indoors, which also means squeezing every last electron out of the electric grid while our air conditioners hum.

With that in mind, our community-owned utility (and my daytime employer), Austin Energy, asked me and several other coworkers to star in short videos explaining quick tips that Austinites can use to save energy and money.

Helping people use less energy makes a lot of people happy, from the family that isn’t roasting in their home, to the utility that can put off building more power plants to meet peak demand, and keeping the aforementioned grid up and running when we need it most.

These tips are all simple things you can do on a lazy Saturday or Sunday. When was the last time you checked your ducts, or made sure there was enough insulation in the attic? Perhaps it's all been smushed down by boxes of Christmas ornaments and suitcases.

Most of the tips revolve around keeping the home cool in the summer and making sure cool air goes where it needs to, say, to the rooms in your home rather than the attic or your front yard. Some of the tips, like the one I filmed, are more general and deal with the appliances and gadgets in your home and are good year round. Perhaps your living room looks like a Best Buy showroom (like mine, ahem), with a bunch of electronics waiting to be plugged into a smart power strip to reduce phantom loads.

Without further ado, here's my best Bob Vila impression where I briefly describe phantom power loads and how you can help reduce them in your home. Sadly, I can't embed the video, so you'll have to watch it in a new tab. Such is life.

While these videos are put together by us here in Austin, most of the tips apply all over the country. Here's the full list of topics:

Weather stripping

Attic insulation

Solar screens and blinds

Maintaining your duct system for energy efficiency

Phantom loads (that's me!)

Appliance efficiency

Programmable thermostats

Planting a tree

HVAC servicing and air filters

Water saving tips

Or check them out at Austin Energy's YouTube page.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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