July 2014
Lower Your Summer Energy Bills
Lower your summer energy bills

Lower Your Summer Energy Bills

Stay cool and save money toward your summer dreams.

Summer sunshine and warm weather are great when you’re outdoors, but they can lead to costly energy bills indoors.

Here are some tips for cool savings on your summer energy bills.

Air conditioning

  • Avoid setting your thermostat colder than normal when you turn on the air conditioner. It won’t cool the home any faster, and could lead to unneeded cooling and expense.
  • Replace your air filters and clean registers regularly; avoid blocking registers.
  • When you’re away, set the thermostat at a higher setting.
  • Using a programmable thermostat makes it easier to raise temperature settings while you’re away, and lower them when you’re home.
  • Keep lamps and warm appliances away from the thermostat.

Fans and ventilation

  • Set ceiling fans to run counter-clockwise in the summer, which creates a cooler, “wind chill” effect.
  • Turn off ceiling fans when you leave the room; fans cool people, not rooms.
  • Adjust your thermostat when using your ceiling fan for additional energy savings on air conditioning.
  • Use the bathroom fan to remove heat and humidity when showering.  

Window treatments

  • Highly reflective slat blinds can reduce heat gain around 45 percent when closed and lowered on sunny windows.
  • Closed drapes stay cooler in the summer compared to other window treatments. Their pleats and folds lose heat through convection.
  • Medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by as much as 33 percent.

Other steps

  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes, and air dry both when possible.
  • Avoid using the oven on hot days, and opt for the stove, microwave or outdoor grill.
  • Reduce your use of heat-producing items like computers, hair dryers and televisions.

By following some or all of these steps, you can save money for things that matter the most to you this summer – and all year round!

Check out this related resource:

Save Money with Energy Efficiency

Protect Your Recreation Dreams by Avoiding Waterborne Illnesses
Protect Your Recreation Dreams by Avoiding Waterborne Illnesses

Protect Your Recreation Dreams by Avoiding Waterborne Illnesses

Don’t let contaminated water ruin your summer fun.

If your summer recreation plans include spending time at the local lake, river or swimming pool, make sure the water you jump into is safe for swimming and won’t make you sick. While water may look clean, there often are risks of contracting illnesses from bacteria, viruses and algae blooms.

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by swallowing, breathing in mists, or having contact with contaminated water in lakes, rivers, oceans, swimming pools and hot tubs. RWIs include a wide variety of illnesses such as gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and open wound infections. With common sense and caution, you can reduce your chance of getting an RWI when swimming.

Caution is the best protection

When it comes to waterborne illnesses, caution is always the best approach. When swimming, waterskiing or playing in water, consider using nose clips to prevent water from getting in your nostrils. Avoid stagnant water and obey any posted "No Swimming" signs, or signs warning of health hazards. Always be careful to avoid swallowing untreated water.

Generally, the safest places to swim are municipal and private pools that are monitored for filtration and chlorine content. Be careful though, as some bacteria or viruses can live for days in properly chlorinated water.

Natural bodies of water have their own set of concerns. Lakes and rivers can become contaminated by runoff from farm fields following a heavy rain. One of the more common and dangerous causes of water contamination are blue-green algae blooms.

Here are some pointers if you encounter blue-green algae blooms.

  • Don't swim, water ski or boat in areas where the water is discolored or if you see foam, scum or mats of algae on the water.
  • If you swim in water that might have an algae bloom, rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible.
  • Don't let pets swim in or drink from areas where you suspect algae blooms are present.
  • If pets (especially dogs) swim in scummy water, rinse them off immediately - do not let them lick the algae off their fur. The toxins can be fatal to dogs.
  • Respect any beach closures announced by local public health authorities.
  • Do not drink, wash dishes or prepare food with water where blue-green algae is present. Even boiling does not make it safe.
  • Get medical treatment right away if you think you or your pet may have come in contact with blue-green algae blooms.

No matter where you swim, always shower off as soon as you get out of the water.

If you have questions about recreational water safety, contact your local public health authority for any advisories or warnings.

Check out these related resources:

Water Safety Tips for Kids

Summer Safety Tips for Kids and Adults

Camping with Safety and Savings in Mind
Camping with Safety and Savings in Mind

Camping with Safety and Savings in Mind

Enjoy this popular pastime safely and economically.

Summer is here and with it come family vacations. One fun and less-expensive option is a camping trip. Camping is a great way to see the outdoors and at the same time, create memories that last a lifetime.

Safety first

While camping is a great family adventure, don’t sacrifice safety for fun. Here are some easy tips to make sure your camping trip is a safe one.

  • Pack perishable foods in tight, waterproof bags or containers and keep them in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice.
  • When hiking, boating or biking, don't forget protective gear such as sturdy shoes, life jackets and helmets.
  • Learn to identify and avoid poisonous plants like poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.
  • Never use fuel-burning stoves, heaters, lanterns or grills inside a tent, camper or other enclosed shelter. These can generate dangerous levels of deadly carbon monoxide.
  • Enjoy wild animals from a safe distance.
  • If you travel with pets, make sure they have plenty of water, food and shelter.
  • Keep bugs away. Repellents containing 20 percent or higher DEET can protect for several hours. Also, check for ticks daily and remove them promptly as they can be carriers of Lyme disease.
  • Protect yourself from sunburn with SPF 15 or higher sunscreen. Seek shade during midday hours when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Pack a first aid kit that includes antiseptics, tweezers, insect repellent, a snake bite kit, pain relievers, sunscreen and any emergency medications your family may need.
  • Build fires away from your tent or camper and never leave them unattended. Never use gas or other flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Don’t forget personal hygiene. Always wash hands before and after handling food.

Camping economically

With a little planning, camping can also be an inexpensive way to vacation. If you’re not careful though, costs can rise. Here are some ways you can help keep costs down.

  • Stick close to home to save money on gas and other travel expenses.
  • Camp with friends to share the cost of campsites.
  • Bring your own food to avoid buying groceries on the road.
  • Frozen meat and prepackaged meals like spaghetti and stew not only save money, they act as secondary ice blocks in your cooler.
  • Before buying new equipment, check out discount gear websites and garage sales or possibly borrow from a friend.
  • Consider staying in a national forest or state campground. Overnight fees may be less than private campgrounds. If you plan on camping frequently at these sites, consider an annual pass for lower daily charges.
  • Make sure your car is properly maintained. A poorly performing car not only uses more gas, it could be dangerous.
  • Bring along membership cards for supermarket clubs, motoring clubs, camping clubs, etc. They may offer savings on purchases made on the road.
  • If you plan on camping a lot, consider travel club memberships that offer discounts to different campgrounds.

Summer’s here – time to enjoy it!

Check out these related resources:

Planning a Road Trip

Water Safety Tips for Kids

Emergency Roadside Service

Picnic Food Safety

Picnic Food Safety


Don’t Get Burned This Summer
Don’t Get Burned This Summer

Don’t Get Burned This Summer

Protect yourself and your family from harmful effects of the sun.

Summer means outside time with picnics, camping, boating – even yard work. All that extra time outdoors though, exposes you to potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. These rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes.

Think you’re sun-savvy? Take this quiz to test whether you know how to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful effects.

  1. True or False: Unused sunscreen should be thrown out after a year.
  2. False. According to the Centers for Disease Control, sunscreen has a shelf life of up to three years – less if it’s been exposed to high temperatures. Always shake the bottle to fully mix the ingredients.

  3. True or False: A sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating of 30 is twice as good as an SPF of 15.
  4. False: According to the American Cancer Society, SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93 percent of ultraviolet "B" (UVB) rays, while SPF 30 filters out about 97 percent. An SPF 100 filters about 99 percent. The higher the SPF rating, the smaller the difference. However, no sunscreen provides 100 percent protection.

  5. True or False: Protection from the sun isn’t necessary on a cloudy day.
  6. False: According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) up to 80 percent of the sun's UV rays get through clouds on an overcast day.

  7. The sun's rays are most harmful only at noon, right?
  8. Wrong: According to the CDC, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. is the most hazardous for UV exposure.

  9. I’ll use a tanning bed instead of the sun. These are OK, right?
  10. Wrong. According to the American Cancer Society, tanning lamps give out UVA and usually UVB rays as well. Both ultraviolet "A" (UVA) and UVB rays can cause long-term skin damage and can contribute to skin cancer.

Want to have fun in the sun while reducing the risks associated with exposure to UV rays? These suggestions can help.

Protect yourself

If it’s cool out, don’t be fooled. People often get sunburned in cooler weather because they don’t think about protecting themselves if it’s not hot. Even when swimming, UV rays can reach below the water’s surface to give you a burn.

Be especially careful if you have:

  • pale skin
  • blond, red, or light brown hair
  • been treated for skin cancer
  • a family member who's had skin cancer

Fortunately, you don’t have to avoid the sun completely. Here are some pointers to help protect yourself and your family.

Use sunscreen

Apply about 20 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 15 and provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays. A higher SPF number means more UVB protection (UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn). Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Don’t forget sensitive spots like the tops of the ears, nose and feet. For those who don’t have much hair, don’t forget the top of your head!

Wear protective clothing

A long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses offer great protection from the sun. Look for hats and clothing made of tightly woven materials. If you can see light through the fabric, UV rays can get through, too.


Wear sunglasses that block UV “A” and “B” rays. Wrap-around styles give the most protection.


The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Find shade or go inside if possible.

Be careful around water and sand

These reflect the sun and can actually double UV exposure.

Be careful with medications

Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can increase your sensitivity to sun exposure and increase the risk of sunburn. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you take.

Protect children

Children tend to spend more time outdoors and burn more easily. Be sure your child is wearing sunscreen or protective clothing. If your child burns easily, be extra careful to cover up, limit exposure and apply sunscreen.

If you’re concerned about the day-to-day intensity of the sun, the Environmental Protection Agency provides a no cost UV index by ZIP code that’s updated daily.

Check out these related resources:

Prevent Heat Stroke