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Want to keep your energy bills from soaring? Avoid these 5 scams

Utility bills may be higher than ever this summer for customers of Arizona Public Service, due to recent rate increases. The effects of the rate changes will really be noticeable when we’re running our air conditioners more.

Maybe you’re thinking about what to do to keep your bills from soaring. Buying new, more energy appliances might help. Cooking outside more often on your gas-powered barbecue might work, too. Or maybe switch all your light bulbs to energy-efficient LEDs? These changes won’t make dramatic differences in your utility bills, but they can help.

But watch out for sales people trying try to talk you into making high-cost improvements as a way of keeping rates down. They are probably zeroing in on Arizona residents because of the rate increases.

Here are some expensive changes you probably want to avoid:

Adding radiant barriers in your attic

These barriers might help your house cool down, but they’re very costly. What most of us have in our attics is thermal insulation that slows down the passage of hot air into your rooms below.

Radiant barrier insulation uses reflective materials, often foil, to keep heat from entering through the roof into your attic.

But for the homeowner who already has the proper R-30 to R-38 insulation, these barriers won’t help that much. Installing them can cost thousands; it may take decades for these barriers to pay for themselves.

Making attic insulation thicker

How about upgrading insulation you already have? Maybe you do want to do that if your insulation was built before 1984 before standards for insulating changed.

But if someone is trying to sell insulation rated at more than R-30 to R-38, stop before you buying. Over-insulating won’t help you much at all.

Installing electric-powered ventilation fans in your attic

The only thing an attic fan will do, whether solar- or electric-powered, is create negative pressure in the attic. That will cause the air-conditioned air inside your home to be drawn up into the attic. Then you will start turning up the thermostat downstairs to get more air conditioning downstairs.

Don’t put an exhaust fan in your garage either

Your uninsulated garage is very hot in the summer, and when you drive your hot car into the garage, you raise the temperature some more.

When an exhaust fan is installed, it will run constantly and raise your electric bill just as it would in your attic; it will start pulling cool air out of your house.

The only option for totally cooling a garage would be insulating the walls and the garage door and installing an evaporative cooler or mini-split air conditioner. You may have good reasons for doing all that, but they will be very costly.

Putting elastomeric paint on the outside of your house

Elastomeric caulking is sometimes used on cracks in stucco houses, but you don’t want to use so-called elastomeric paint for an entire house, even though elastomeric paints are effective in reflecting the sun.

These paints are very expensive, and it is very hard to repair your stucco once they are on your house. You may need to re-coat an entire wall if you have a problem. You cannot paint over elastomeric coated walls with regular paint.

So, this summer, stick to low-cost changes in your lifestyle and your house. Watch your bills carefully and don’t take drastic, costly action before you even know what’s going to happen. After a few months, you’ll have a better idea of what to do next at your house.

Rosie on the House

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