Summer is on its way, along with warmer weather and longer daylight hours. You may be excited to enjoy the warmer months of the year, and you may have a list of outdoor activities you hope to engage in while you have the chance. However, in order to fully enjoy the warmth of summer, it’s important to have a home where you can find refuge and take time to cool down when needed. Here are ten cost-efficient ways to keep your home cool through the summer.
Keep the blinds/curtains closed
Minimizing the amount of sunlight that enters your house can go a long way toward keeping cool indoors. Focus on south-facing windows during the mid-day hours and west-facing windows in the afternoon. Your options for sunlight reduction are many, including blinds, draperies, awnings, reflective films, shutters, etc. Different options have different advantages and disadvantages, depending on your needs and preferences.
Open the windows at night
Temperatures in a dry climate will naturally drop at night. Take advantage of the night time weather and let the cooler air into your house through natural ventilation. You don’t need to open the windows all the way; just a crack should do. You can leave them open during the cool morning hours as well, but remember to close them again before the mid-day heat arrives. Always remember to keep windows and doors closed all the way when the temperature outside is higher than the temperature inside. Be aware that outdoor air can sometimes bring humidity with it, which could temporarily occupy your air conditioner as it tries to dry out the air before cooling it.
Switch out your incandescent lights
If you haven’t done so already, swapping out your incandescent bulbs for CFL or LED bulbs could help you in more ways than one. Not only are they more cost efficient over time, they also give off less heat. That difference in heat is that much less that you have to worry about when cooling your home.
Use an alternative air conditioning unit
Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, are well suited to dry climates because they work by humidifying the air before sending it through the house. They use less energy than traditional air conditioning units, and they cost less to install. Potential drawbacks to consider include the need for more frequent routine maintenance than traditional air conditioners, and the use of water for cooling, which could raise your water bill.
Fire up the grill
Enjoy some fresh air and make the most of your outdoor space with some summer grilling. Ovens and stoves are big contributors to indoor heat buildup, and the best way to avoid using your oven or stove is to grill your food when possible. If you have them, fire pits or outdoor ovens will work as well. If it’s within your budget, you can also reduce cooking heat by ordering delivery food or eating out. Other measures you can take to reduce heat buildup will also help. For example, running the bathroom fan when showering will prevent the hot, humid air from spreading and warming other parts of the house. Laundry machines, dishwashers, computers, televisions, and other appliances can all produce heat. Coordinate the use of these appliances to account for the heat they give off, and avoid using them excessively.
Maintain your AC unit
Making sure your air conditioning unit is in good working order and that the filter is clean can improve its energy efficiency, saving you money while allowing you to make full use of your system. Ensure you are up to date on regular maintenance.
A long-term approach to reducing heat gain in the summer is to plant trees or vines that will help to shade your sunny side windows. Well kept, landscaping investments can cut your energy costs while also adding to the aesthetic appeal of your home.
Use fans wisely
Fans will help you circulate and ventilate the air in your house. There are a few tricks to increase their effectiveness, such as running the air over something cold, like a bowl of ice. However, always remember to turn fans off when no one is in the room. Fans cool through the wind chill effect, which only works when moving air comes in contact with people. Fans don’t actually lower the temperature of the air, so when a room is unoccupied, the energy to power the fan is wasted.
Seal your leaks
Ductwork is responsible for carrying heated or cooled air throughout your house in “forced-air” heating and cooling systems. Leaks in the ductwork can allow much of the conditioned air to be lost in transit. This can dramatically reduce the efficiency of your system, resulting in higher costs to achieve the desired conditions in your house. Where possible, use duct-sealing products to stop up the leaks. The exterior of your house – the roof, outer walls, windows, and doors – can also have major air leaks that decrease the effectiveness of your cooling system. Consider hiring a professional contractor to evaluate and improve your ductwork and home exterior to stop any leaks that may be affecting your ability to keep cool.
Invest in efficiency
When buying appliances to cool your home, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. Products with the ENERGY STAR® certification have been independently tested and verified to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards of energy efficiency. This means you pay less on your electricity bill to power the appliances that keep you feeling comfortable all summer long.
Other resources for information and tips to keep your house cool.
Energy Star - https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_hvac&s=mega
U.S. Department of Energy - http://energy.gov/energysaver/home-cooling-systems