With the cost of utilities (and everything else) soaring, keeping your home air-conditioned through the summer can wreak havoc on the budget. Here are ways to keep your house cool without going broke.
- 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 .
- Put Mother Nature to work for you. Turn off the A/C in the morning if it’s cooler outside than in, then open the windows and run the whole house fan to bring the cool air indoors. Close the windows before temperatures start to climb, and you’ll have a few hours before you’ll need the A/C. 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.
- 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 largely pointless task since I’d start sweating right away). Switching to CFLs fixed that, and thanks to the newest models I don’t even have to wait 5 minutes for them to reach full luminosity.
- 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 then lowers the temperature before your return.
- 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 yours so they’re blowing 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.)
- Only run fans where you’re sitting. Fans cool people, not rooms. Don’t run a fan if there’s no one to enjoy the breeze.
- Close off unused rooms.Don’t pay to cool the guest room if Aunt Edna isn’t visiting. 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.
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.
- Clean your A/C filter. Manufacturers recommend changing filters every 3 months, but allergy suffers like me know they need it monthly. A clean filter doesn’t just reduce household dust, it also prevents your A/C from having to work extra hard to circulate cool air.
- Keep your A/C 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.
- Keep the condenser housing clean. There are plenty of videos on YouTube showing how to disconnect and clean an A/C’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.
- 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 A/C won’t have to work as hard to keep your home cool. 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 A/C for a lot less money.
- 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 in the evening. 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!
- 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, crock pot (and keep it in the garage!) or outdoor grill, rather than the oven or stove. Explain to the kids that big-screen TVs put out a huge 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.
As for the proper temperatures: that’s a source of constant disagreement in our house. My husband shivers if it’s below 75F, but as far as I’m concerned, he can wear more clothing. Aunt Edna, however, complains if it’s over 68F when she visits…which is why I keep it at 72.
(Shared with Delightfully Dowling’s link party.)