Ah, summer. The gentle time of pools and sunburns, cool salads and salmonella, patios and insect repellent. It's high season for energy and water use. With the spike in oil prices, it's time for consumers to pay extra attention to how and when they use resources around the house. Meaghan O'Neill is editor of treehugger.com and co-author of Ready, Set, Green: Eight Weeks to Modern Eco-Living. Here are some of her tips. San Francisco Chronicle • Clean off filters and coils on air conditioners and refrigerators. They are more efficient if free of dust.
• If using a window air-conditioning unit, buy one appropriate for the room size.
• Caulk windows and doors to keep the cool in.
• Use a manual push mower.
• Use reusable dishes instead of disposable plates.
• Adjust your thermostat up by just 2 degrees — it saves 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per person.
• Install a programmable thermostat so the house isn't cooled or warmed when you're not home.
• Use the dishwasher — typically they use only 4 or 5 gallons, rather than 15 gallons washing by hand.
• Switch to energy-efficient showerheads and aerated faucets to cut water use by as much as 50 percent.
• Dry clothes or run the dishwasher in the evening, when there is less strain on the energy grid.
• Install a "whole house" fan, which disperses heat collected in the attic. Otherwise, the heat acts as a barrier, keeping the house hot.
• If you're replacing windows, think about low-energy models and creating cross-ventilation, to help keep the house cooler.
• Hook up your computer, printer and fax to a single power strip that you can switch off each night.
• Put up retractable awnings to shade windows from bright sun.
• On the natural route: Plant trees outside windows to allow for shade in summer and light in winter.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service