15 Ways to Keep Your Home Cool This Summer
Keeping your home cool in the summer heat is a major concern every time the thermometer starts creeping up. What’s worse is the soaring cost of power bills. The average central air conditioning unit can cost you anywhere from $52 to $350 per month to run for nine hours a day, depending on its efficiency and the price of electricity where you live. So the question becomes, how do you avoid the sweltering heat and keep your family comfortable without breaking your bank? Here are 15 tips to beat the heat other than cranking the thermostat as low as it’ll go.
- Prepare your house for the summer by swapping out your sheets for cooler options, like cotton or linen. Save the flannel sheets for the chilly winter months.
- Pull curtains and blinds closed when you’re not home, to keep the house from being heated by the sun’s rays. Some styles of blackout curtains work wonders to keep light out, while also not trapping in heat. You can also install tinted or low-e window films to filter out the worst of the light while you’re home.
- Plant shade trees or a trellis to protect the windows that get the most sun, which will generally be on the south, east, or west sides of your house, depending on where you are and the lay of the land. A nice trellis also provides a cool, beautiful place to sit outside. If you want passive solar heating in the winter, avoid adding permanent shade on the south side of the house. Deciduous trees can offer a nice compromise as they’ll lose their leaves in the fall, allowing more sunlight and heat past their branches during those cold winter months.
- Put awnings, shades, or shutters on or over your windows, especially on the south- and west-facing sides.
- Ventilate your house at night by opening all the windows at least a crack, if safe to do so. If you can, open them so that there is a crack of space at the top and the bottom of the window, to allow the warmer air to escape up top while cooler air enters at the bottom.
- If not running air conditioning, you can produce a natural airflow by opening windows on the top and bottom floor of the house and leaving intervening doors open. Open double-hung windows a few inches at both the top and bottom. (Put screens on your windows to keep bugs from getting in.) This also take advantage of the natural air flow created as warmer air is drawn up and out, while cooler air comes in on the ground floor.
- Set ceiling fans to run counter-clockwise, at a higher speed. This pushes down cool air and creates a nice, chilling breeze – making the air feel as much as 4 degrees cooler.
- Pick your ceiling fan carefully. Energy Star rated fans are typically 10 to 20 percent more efficient at moving air than standard fans. Fans with high cfm (cubic feet per minute) move more air and produce a better cooling effect, but can be louder. Smooth fans are quieter than bumpy fans. Large fans can be run at slower speeds to reduce noise, though if your room’s 144 to 225 square feet you should generally stick to a 42- or 44-inch fan. 52-inch fans are ideal for rooms that are 225 to 400 square feet. Install a fan 8 to 9 feet above the floor for the best airflow.
- Remember to use bathroom fans and kitchen exhaust fans as needed, to vent the hot, steamy air from showers and cooking.
- Switch your light-bulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), LEDs, or similar low-energy options, away from incandescent bulbs. Energy-efficient lights give off significantly less heat.
- Run appliances like the laundry machines and dishwasher at night, since they give off a good bit of heat.
- Try using an outdoor grill instead of the oven or stovetop. Both will heat your house, and grilling outside is a fun way to reduce heat production inside.
- If a too-hot house is a consistent problem, consider repainting to a lighter color, or even replacing your roof with something more heat-resistant than the standard shingles. These two options should mostly be done when due for a replacement anyways, since they’re expensive solutions.
- Let yourself adjust to hotter temperatures starting early. It only takes a week or two for our bodies to adjust to a new temperature. Don’t run the A/C in the spring if you can avoid it, and resist the temptation to set the A/C much lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit, 78 degrees if you have a ceiling fan (this also helps keep the outdoors from feeling too unbearably hot). The higher your AC is set, the more money you’ll save on energy bills – generally, you’ll save three to ten percent per degree above 78 degrees. Set your A/C five or more degrees higher when away from your home. Some programmable thermostats can be set to turn the air conditioning on shortly before you’re set to return home, so you can come back to a nice, cool house without worrying about losing energy.
- Clean or change your air conditioning system’s air filter before the cooling season, and then every month during it. Keeping your air filter clean will also reduce your energy usage, and help to trap pollen, pet dander, and other irritants.