Idahoans’ electricity consumption spikes in the summer — especially in the middle of July. With use of both agricultural irrigation and air conditioning at their highest, Idahoans collectively can consume two or three times as much electricity as during a spring or fall day. When demand for electricity spikes, utilities run coal plants flat out and turn to dirty, expensive gas power plants to meet demands. This results in extra air pollution and drives up power costs.
Fortunately, we each have the power to take action to protect our air and climate. This starts with recognizing that our bodies will adapt to warmer temperatures within a couple weeks. Ubiquitous air conditioning is a recent development. We can rely on millions of years of evolution that allows our bodies to adapt to current weather. All you need to do is enjoy the sun and stay hydrated.
After allowing our bodies to adapt, the next stage is to use time-proven techniques to stay cool without contributing to dirty, expensive energy spikes. Here are six simple steps you can follow to stay comfortable, just like we do in our ICL Boise headquarters. With a little extra planning, you can help protect our air, keep money in your pocket and stay cool.
The Six Steps
Step one: Use Idaho’s cool night air. Security is a top priority, so in our office the one arriving earliest opens the doors and windows to let in the cool morning air. A simple thermometer will tell you when your air temperature exceeds 78 degrees — the point at which you should close up to keep the cool air in.
Step two: Use fans to directly cool people instead of the whole building. A fan blowing on skin can reduce the temperature a person feels by 4 degrees or more. A fan in an empty room is mostly wasteful. We use fans in individual offices to meet individual needs.
Step three: Use window shades, ideally outside the home, to block the direct sun from shining into windows. Anyone who has ever opened a car door knows that sun shining into a window creates an oven inside. The same holds true for your home.
Step four: Dress for the season. Summer is the time for lighter fabrics that allow air circulation. Put those sweaters and thick socks away. By dressing appropriately and staying hydrated your body will adapt to warmer weather in just a couple weeks.
Step five: Limit your use of electricity during the most critical hours of the day, between 3 pm and 8 pm. By not using dishwashers or washing machines during this time, you directly reduce the demand on fossil fuel power plants. Also, cook outside to avoid heating up the kitchen — use that barbecue!
Step six: Program your thermostat. Set your indoor temperature to no lower than 78 degrees, and only for the time the home is occupied. While empty, your home should be allowed to warm substantially. 78 degrees is plenty cool — imagine an ideal Sunday afternoon of about 80 degrees. Why should inside be any cooler than conditions you would comfortably enjoy outside?
What You Can Do
Every one of us has the power to protect our air and climate. Summertime is the most important time of the year to take small actions that will make a real difference. Look over these suggestions, make some simple choices and act now to flex your power!
Here are some more tips for saving energy in your home.