Summer Money-Saving Costs: Backyard Edition

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Electricity prices are forecast to rise 2.2 percent in 2014, to an average of 12.4 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By taking simple measures to reduce your utility usage inside and out, you can save money.

Exterior electricity usage is often overlooked, but as summer approaches, you’ll be spending more and more time outside. Make your summer a green one with these four tips to cut down on energy consumption in the backyard, deck or patio:

1. Stop wasting water on the yard

Forgetting to turn off the sprinkler not only risks a soggy lawn, it wastes water. Watering your grass, trees, shrubs and flowering or edible plants uses premium water. To reduce your water usage and costs, invest in a timed watering solution, which you can find at your local hardware store for $20 to $50. Typical water timing solutions connect to your spigot and allow you to program the time and duration of watering. To conserve utility usage even further, water in the morning or evening hours. When the sun is down, your plants and grass will better retain moisture and be less thirsty.

2. Stop wasting money to heat your pool or hot tub

Using an insulation cover on your heated swimming pool or hot tub can reduce your operating costs by up to 70 percent, notes the U.S. Department of Energy. The cover stops heat loss that happens when water evaporates. You can learn more about popular styles of thermal spa covers at HotTubWorks.com, then measure your pool or tub to find out what size you’ll need. To see the energy-saving benefits, you’ll need to use the pool cover regularly, not just during the off season or when you are going out of town and won’t be using the pool.

3. Stop wasting money on exterior lights

Solar lights offer a natural way to save energy, and have come down quite a bit in cost. Solar lights designed just for pathways use a stake base to sink into your turf for easy installation. You can find pathway lights for $3 to $6 apiece at your local hardware store. Lighting up an entire walkway with solar lights costs you nothing after the initial purchase, since lights naturally recharge from the sun. Ease into solar lighting with pathway lights, then expand if you enjoy the look and cost savings.

4. Switch to LED or CFL bulbs

While CFLs are greener than incandescent bulbs, LEDs conserve even more energy. They last 25 percent longer than the average incandescent bulb and use just 25 percent of the energy that incandescents do. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends LEDs for us in external lighting situations because the bulbs perform well in cold weather.

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