Don’t sweat those summer utility bills. These tips will help you keep your home cool while using less energy.
You spend all year looking forward to the slower, lazier days of summer. Then those temperatures start to soar, and your home’s air conditioning runs nonstop. You start to feel hot under the collar, and not only due to the triple-digit temperatures.
11 Ways to Lower Your Cooling Costs
That utility bill got you sweating bullets? Relax. These tips can help get your home’s cooling costs under control without leaving you miserably hot.
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. Over 75% of the sun hitting your home’s windows enters as heat, which means that a sunny view is costing you significant money. If you are away, leave the blinds and curtains closed. Otherwise, only open those on the shady sides of your house.
2. Make Good Window Treatment Choices
Since sunlight hitting your windowpanes turns into heat, using full-sized screens on your window can help you stay cool. If your windows are bare, try adding solar screens, which are made of polyester mesh. They’ll allow you to see out while blocking a good portion of the sun’s rays. (Metal screens, on the other hand, can actually make your home even hotter.)
Indoors, some window treatments are better than others at helping you save money cooling your home. The more layers you have between your home’s air and the hot outdoors, the better. That’s why cellular blinds, roman shades, and curtains layered with sheers are all good at helping keep hot air outside. On the other hand, bamboo or rattan shades offer little insulation against summer’s heat, so consider adding a layer of curtains over them.
3. Open Windows at the Right Time
The less your air-conditioner runs, the lower your cooling costs. If the morning temperatures dip lower than your normal thermostat setting, take advantage of them and open your windows. If you’ve got a whole house fan, run it to bring in even more cool air. (Be sure to turn off your air conditioner before you do this.) Of course, if someone in your home has allergies, skip this method, or the pollen you bring in will make them sneeze all day.
4. Switch Bulbs
If you still use incandescent bulbs in lamps or recessed lighting, make the switch to CFL or LED lights. Since incandescent bulbs emit heat, they can quickly raise a room’s temperature, especially if someone forgets and leaves them on all day. If you’ve tried LED bulbs in the past but didn’t like the noise or the wait time for them to reach peak illumination, try the latest ones. Those problems — like incandescent bulbs — are a thing of the past.
5. Smart Thermostat Settings
The less the difference between outdoor and indoor temperatures, the less you’ll spend cooling your home. Changing your thermostat from 72° to 78° while you’re home, and programming it to 83° while you’re gone, can reduce your cooling costs by over 15% right away. (If you have pets, though, be sure to check with your vet concerning their heat tolerance. Some breeds, like bulldogs, Pekinese, and pugs, struggle in temperatures over 85°F.)
6. Proper Ceiling Fan Use
Fans generate a breeze that feels up to 8 degrees cooler than a room’s actual temperature. Most fans have a switch on the outside of the housing. Check yours and make sure it’s rotating counterclockwise in summer. Remember, fans cool people, not rooms, so don’t run a fan if there’s no one to enjoy the breeze.
7. Keep Your Air Conditioner Clean
Changing your air conditioner’s filter more often during the summer helps control dust, which means your AC won’t have to work as hard to circulate chilled air. Keep the outside housing clean, too. When the vents and fin coils are free of dust and debris, your whole AC unit works more efficiently, which helps reduce your cooling costs.
8. Keep Your AC Unit Shaded
Homebuilders typically put the HVAC system on the shady side of a house where it can draw cooler air. If you’ve changed the landscaping, adding shrubs or a screen to shade your unit can significantly lower your cooling costs. For window units, consider installing an awning to provide shade.
9. Know How to Use Your Attic Fan
If you have a whole house fan, you can use it to seriously lower your cooling costs by running it at the proper times. Run it when temperatures outside are below 82°F, or you’ll pull in hot air. Open the windows on the lower floors of your home but leave the upper floor’s windows closed. This way, you’ll draw cooler air to the upper floor first — where heat gathers during the day. Continue to run it until the temperature on the lower floor drops.
10. Spray Your Roof
The darker or older your roof is, the more heat it will add to your home. If a new roof is in your near future, opt for light-colored shingles to help reduce your cooling costs. In the meantime, you can quickly help release built-up heat by spraying your roof with water from a garden hose with a powerful nozzle.
This might not be something to do every night — unless you’ve attached rain barrels to your gutters so you can use the runoff to water the lawn. But when summer temperatures soar into the triple digits, spraying your roof lets evaporative cooling lower your attic’s temperature by 5-10 degrees quickly, which gives your AC a chance to catch up.
11. Go Natural
Switch your home’s fabrics and your decor in the summer months to favor natural fibers like cotton, linen, and silk. These textiles are breathable, which means they won’t trap body heat. Choosing natural fabrics for sheets means you’ll feel cooler at night. Using them for slipcovers or upholstery means the furniture you’re sitting on won’t feel like it’s getting hotter with every passing minute. When it comes to clothing, wearing breathable fabrics means you’ll sweat less — and that will keep you from adjusting the thermostat.
More Tips to Keep Your Home Cool
The easiest way to save money on cooling your home is by avoiding activities that make it hot.
- Instead of running your clothes dryer, which releases heat and humidity into your home, line-dry your clothes.
- Use your microwave or outdoor grill for cooking meals instead of the oven or stove.
- Big-screen TVs and game consoles put out a lot of heat. So, limit screen time and send the kids outside to play instead. For the same reason, turn off lights and computers when not in use.
- Dishwasher heating elements add a lot of hot, humid air to your home. Wash dishes by hand and let them air dry.
- Switch to cool showers or baths, and close the bathroom door before running the fan, so you aren’t losing chilled air to the outdoors.
- Limit trips outside and try to use exterior doors on the shady side of your home.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a cold soak. Whether you stick your feet in cold water or sit in a cold bath, using water to lower your body’s temperature will keep you from lowering the thermostat and help keep your cooling costs under control.