Home Care Library
14 Ways to Keep Cool AND Save Energy This Summer
1. Block the sun from coming in your windows.The bright sun coming in through your windows raises the temperature of your home, and if you have air conditioning, it makes your AC work much harder. There are many ways that you can block sunlight from coming through your windows: you can close your existing shades, blinds or drapes; you can add heavy black-out shades (see types, costs, and reviews of solar black-out shades); you can add awnings over the outside of your windows; or longer-term, you can even plant trees to block the direct sunlight. And even if you don’t block the sunlight completely, you can still help keep your home cooler and reduce your air conditioning bills by partially blocking the light through your windows. Blocking sunlight is especially important for windows which face west or south.
2. Turn off and avoid heat sources.Anything that adds heat inside of your home, make your home warmer and costs you more to run your AC. There are a number of appliances in your home which give off heat even when they are turned off. Examples of the worst offenders are plasma TVs and digital video recorder boxes. But other appliances also include computers, printers, etc. And when you add these all together, this creates a lot of heat coming into your home. So not only does it give you higher AC bills, but you are also paying for the wasted “vampire power” for these appliances that are just in standby. So you will want to unplug as many of these as you can when they are not in use.
The other sources of heat that you want to avoid are from using appliances like ovens, stoves, washers, dryers, and lighting. All of these add heat and should be avoided if at all possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day, when you cannot open your windows to cool your home.
3. Properly maintain your air conditioner system.
When facing record temperatures with your AC system running at full capacity, you will want to be sure that it is operating as efficiently as possible. So you will want to change your AC filters every month, and you should consider having a service professional come in to inspect and adjust your system to ensure the refrigerant is fully charged, the motors and compressors are operating properly, the distribution ducts are well-balanced, etc.
4. Install a solar attic fan.New technology is now available that uses solar energy instead of electricity to run an attic ventilation fan. An attic vent fan cools your attic and therefore reduces the cooling load on your AC system. And since it is solar-powered, this type of attic fan doesn’t cost you any electricity to run (see types, costs, and reviews of solar attic fans).
5. Install ceiling fans.Ceiling fans provide a wind-chill effect to your body, so they make you feel cooler, and therefore allow you to raise your thermostat while still feeling comfortable (see types, costs, and reviews of solar ceiling fans). Running a ceiling fan for 12 hours a day only costs about $10 per month in electricity, and you can save much more than this by running your AC system less by using a higher thermostat setting. And remember, if no one is in the room, you should turn off your ceiling fans.
6. Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units.
The outside part of your air conditioning system is where the heat from your home is exchanged to the outside air. The cooler this area is, the more efficient your system can be at exchanging heat from your home. By planting trees or shrubbery to provide shade to this area, it helps to keep this area cooler, so your AC system can work more effectively. However, you want to be careful not to plant anything too close to your outside unit, as you do not want to block the airflow.
7. Close vents in unused rooms.If you have rooms that you are not using, then you should close both the distribution and supply registers for your air conditioning in these rooms. This way, your central AC system is just working to cool the rooms where you actually need the cooling.
8. Create a "chimney effect" in the evening.
Heat rises, so when it starts to cool down outside, you can help cool down your home by opening windows on your first floor or basement and then opening your windows on the second floor. You can accelerate this cooling by placing a large box fan near an upstairs window to blow the warm air out of the window.
9. Turn down your A/C when leaving.
When leaving your home, turn your thermostat up, so that your AC system does not have to run as hard while you are gone. Contrary to some popular beliefs, you save more energy by not running your system and then cooling your house back down when you get home than you would if you ran it the entire time. A programmable thermostat can make it very convenient to adjust these temperatures automatically.
10. Open a window in your bathroom when using your shower fan.
After you take a shower or bath, your bathroom will have high humidity levels, and you will want to run your shower fan to clear out this humidity to reduce the growth of mold, rot, etc. But rather than the air in your bathroom being replaced by air-conditioned air from your home while your shower fan is running, it is better to open a bathroom window and close your bathroom door. And even though the outside air being drawn in is warm, it is still better to clear out the humidity in your bathroom using this outside air, than it is to use “expensive” air-conditioned air from your home.
11. Change incandescent light bulbs for CFL bulbs.
Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs use 75% less energy and produce 75% less heat than incandescent light bulbs. And therefore, switching to CFL bulbs not only saves you money on electricity for lighting, it also reduces your AC bill by not adding more heat in your home (see types, costs, and reviews of compact fluorescent bulbs).
12. Add insulation to your attic.Adding insulation to your attic is an investment that will not only reduce your cooling costs in the summer, but will also reduce your heating costs in the winter. For example, upgrading from 3 inches of insulation to 12 inches can cut cooling costs by up to 10 percent.
13. Check the caulking and weatherstripping.
Cracks and leaks around windows, doors, pipe connections, etc. allow heat to come in and cool air to leak out. So you will want to be sure to check your caulking and weatherstripping to help reduce the load on your AC system (see types, costs, and reviews of caulking and weatherstripping tools).
14. Close and block your fireplace damper.
If you have a fireplace, you will want to be sure that the damper is tightly sealed to keep air from flowing up and down your chimney. You can even get an inflatable chimney balloon, which is designed to create a tighter seal than what you can normally get with just a damper (see types, costs, and reviews of inflatable chimney balloons).
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