It’s hot just about every place in the United States, but the impact of record heat is having its greatest effect, for the second time in as many years, on the homeowners in the West.
Especially on their electric bills. According to wire service stories, many Californians will be paying twice as much for electricity and gas this summer as they paid in the spring.
Although it is easy to lecture about the need to save energy and provide suggestions on lowering cooling costs, when it is 101 degrees in the shade in downtown Pasadena, the tendency for most is to crank up the central air conditioning.
When the utility bills arrive, however, many less-affluent homeowners — and even those who can afford higher costs — reconsider ways to conserve energy.
Utility costs should be a factor in any home-buying decision. If the buyer will stretch his paycheck to the limit just to meet the mortgage, costs of heating and cooling might put him or her over the edge.
Even those with comfortable margins for financial error should ask the seller for copies of the previous year’s utility bills to get a proper handle on monthly costs.
If a home inspector suggests that heating and cooling systems are outdated or inefficient, the buyer should then investigate how much it would cost to replace the inefficient units for more efficient ones.
If a high-efficiency heating and cooling system is much more expensive than a standard one, the buyer must then determine the payback period in lower energy costs for his or her investment.
If lower energy costs helps the buyer recoup his investment after four years, and the buyer only plans to remain in the house for two, then he or she is paying too much.
If this is the buyer’s house for the next 10, then the investment is worth it.
Whatever the decision, the heating and cooling system should be regularly and professionally maintained, so that when a buyer shows up with the home inspector, the system will be an asset to the seller instead of a liability.
In the meantime, there are certain things homeowners can do to use less energy and lower utility costs, even as the summer sun blazes unmercifully overhead.
The suggestions are from the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.:
You can perform an energy audit of your house to determine where the problems are. On its Web site, www.ase.org/checkup, there is a simple checklist that offers a quick analysis of potential dollar and pollution savings, taking into consideration climate types and energy prices.