Yesterday morning one of my coworkers shared a post card with me that was advertising the Dominion Smart Cooling Rewards Program. As I read through the site, I thought “this is doubly green!” If you let Dominion cycle on and off your air-conditioner or heat pump during periods of high demand, you’ll get $40 at the end of the summer!
Here’s how it works. Dominion will install an A/C Cycling or “smart” switch on your outdoor air-conditioning unit or heat pump system. Since the work is performed on your outdoor unit, you don’t even need to be home during installation. Dominion provides the equipment and the installation is free. During periods of high demand Dominion will cycle your air conditioner or heat pump compressor on and off for short periods to save energy. The fan will keep on circulating already cooled air. This occurs during the summer season between June and September. Typically cycling will occur for about four hours per event, between 2 PM and 6 PM, and will not occur on weekends or holidays.
This conservation approach is an answer to peak electric demand, which is the amount of electricity needed at any given time. The level of electric demand fluctuates constantly depending on many factors, like weather conditions and time of the day. When the level of electric demand is at its highest, it is called peak electric demand. I’m sure you can think of a time this summer when you got home from work, kicked the a/c up a few notches, started a load of laundry, switched on the TV, and began cooking dinner. All those activities require electricity, and since most everyone else in your community was doing something similar in their home, the demand was very high.
Wondering what else you can do to save energy?
- Raise your thermostat to 78º. This is the number one way to conserve energy.
- When you are away from home for more than eight hours, raise the thermostat setting and you can expect to see a 1% savings for each degree of setback. This will reduce the amount of energy used to cool your home while you’re away. You can learn more about your thermostat online by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy website.
- Keep shades closed when the air conditioner is on. Sunny windows account for 40 percent of unwanted heat and can make your air conditioner work two to three times harder.
- Check and clean filters. Cleaning and replacing air conditioning filters monthly allows the system to run more efficiently.
- Install ceiling fans. Don’t underestimate the importance of ceiling fans. Moving air over the body provides a cooling effect. The use of ceiling fans can mean savings of around 25% on cooling costs and can make the temperature seem 10 degrees cooler.
- Make sure ceiling fans are blowing down. Most fans have a switch to change the fan direction. Make sure ceiling fans are blowing downward (in a counter-clockwise direction) to send air past your body.
- Run appliances with large energy use late in the evening. Use the dishwasher and clothes washer late in the evening. When used during the day, these appliances produce additional heat, causing your air conditioner to work harder.
- Use cold water to wash dishes and clothes. This will save on water heating costs.
- Unplug equipment not in use. Electric chargers, televisions and audio/video equipment use electricity and produce heat even when they are not in use. Running an older refrigerator can use up to three times the energy of a modern one. Unplug any appliance when it’s not in use.
- Turn off lights. Turn lights off when exiting a room. Consider replacing incandescent bulbs with energy efficient compact florescent lights (CFLs). And remember to recycle CFLs whenever possible.