With the cost of utilities (and everything else) soaring, keeping your home air-conditioned can wreak havoc on the budget. Here are thirteen tips on how to save money on cooling your home this summer.
1. Don’t let the light shine in. Sure, summertime is all about sunny days, but opening curtains to let the light in also lets in the sun’s heat. If you’ll be away, leave the blinds and curtains closed. Otherwise, only open those on the shady sides of your house. And remember, the sun moves throughout the day, so in the afternoon you might need to close the curtains you opened this morning.
2. Put Mother Nature to work for you. Turn off the AC in the morning if it’s cool outside hen open the windows and run the whole house fan to bring that cooler air indoors. Close the windows before temperatures start to climb, and you’ll have a few hours before you’ll need the AC. Of course, if there are allergy suffers in your house, don’t use this method or the pollen you’ll bring in will make them miserable.
3. Switch to CFL or LED light bulbs. My home was built in the 90s when recessed flood lights were all the rage. In the time it takes to make coffee in the morning, the temperature of my kitchen used to go up a good 5 degrees, all because of the incandescent flood lights. And, oh, how the bathrooms would get sweltering while I put on my makeup (a mostly pointless task since I’d start sweating right away). Switching to LEDs fixed that, and thanks to the newest models I don’t even have to wait 5 minutes for them to reach full luminosity.
4. Program your thermostat. If you’re not home all the time, consider installing a programmable thermostat, so you’re not cooling the house when you’re away. Set it to lower the temperature before your return, and you’ll never know the difference but your utility bill certainly will.
5. Install ceiling fans and use them properly. Fans generate a breeze that feels up to 8 degrees cooler than the room’s actual temperature. Just be sure to set it to blow down in the summer, which will push hot air away from your body. (Switch them to the opposite position in the winter to bring heated air down from the ceiling, and you’ll save on heating costs, too.)
6. Only run fans in the room when you’re in it. Fans cool people, not rooms. Don’t run a fan if there’s no one to enjoy the breeze. The exception to this involves bathroom fans which you want to run for at least 15 minutes after each shower to reduce humidity.
7. Close off unused rooms. Don’t pay to cool the guest room if no one is using it. Close the ducts, and keep the door shut. Just don’t shut off too many rooms or you may affect the pressure in your HVAC system.
8. Clean your AC filter. Manufacturers recommend changing filters every three months, but allergy suffers like me know they need it monthly. A clean filter doesn’t just reduce household dust, it also prevents your AC from having to work extra hard to circulate chilled air.
9. Keep your AC unit shaded. Home builders typically put the HVAC system on the shady side of a house where it can draw cooler air. If you’ve changed the landscaping, or your builder was a bonehead, you need to find a way to shade your unit. Shrubs will work, but they can clog the condenser intake. Building a small screen can give shade as well as hide an otherwise ugly HVAC unit.
10. Keep the condenser housing clean. There are plenty of videos on YouTube like this one which show how to disconnect and clean an AC’s condenser housing, or you can call a professional. Keeping the vents and fin coils free from debris allows the unit to work more efficiently, and that helps reduce your costs.
11. Use your whole house fan properly. A whole house fan can pull all the hot air out of the house in a matter of minutes, which means your AC won’t have to work as hard. Only run the fan when the temperatures outside are below 82F. Otherwise, you’ll just be pulling in hot air. Open the windows on the lowest floor in your home but leave the windows in upper stories closed. Run the fan until the inside temperature drops. If it’s cool enough outside, you can use your fan in place of the AC throughout the day for a lot less money.
12. Keep your roof cool. The latest trend in home building is to use white or light-colored shingles since these reflect, not absorb, light and thus heat. Our homeowner’s association doesn’t allow such things, and our attic construction doesn’t allow us to add more insulation. So, on the very hottest days, we spray the roof with a garden hose for about 5 minutes in the evening. Since our gutters drain into rain barrels, which we then use to water the garden, it’s not wasting water, but it sure helps cool off the house. The water’s evaporation transfers heat from our roof (and attic) to the air, bringing the indoor temperatures down anywhere from 5 to 10 degrees in just a few minutes!
13. Don’t add heat to your house! This is probably the single most important thing you can do to cut back on your cooling bills. It’s also one of the easiest: simply don’t do anything that adds heat. Line-dry your clothes, instead of running the dryer which will release heat into the house. Use your microwave or outdoor grill rather than the oven or stove. Explain to the kids that big-screen TVs put out an enormous amount of heat, so they need to cut back on viewing time and play outside or read instead. Turn off lights and computers when not in use, and transfer your coffee to a carafe rather than running the coffee maker’s heating element all morning, since these generate heat, too.
It all adds up.
None of these thirteen tips about how to save on cooling costs this summer are that difficult to implement, but they certainly add up to significant savings, especially if your summer is as long and hot as ours is in Kansas!