With heat reaching into the triple digits during the summer months, anything that helps save on air conditioning costs is extremely welcome. Here are a few ideas to help drive your energy costs down and keep your home cool.
1) If you have a programmable thermostat, use it! According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it is possible to save up to 10% per year on heating and cooling costs by setting your thermostat down 7 to 10 degrees for 8 hours per day. Program it to cool less (set the temperature for 78-80 degrees) during the day while you’re away, and turn it back on shortly before you return home for the day.
2) If you have ceiling fans, use them, too! Fans circulate the air in a room and help increase the effect of your air conditioner. In the summer, ceiling fan blades should rotate in a counterclockwise or “forward” direction to blow air straight down and create cool downward airflow. The warmer it is, the higher your fan speed should be. In the winter, fan blades should rotate slowly in a clockwise or “reverse” direction to redistribute warm air, which naturally rises. To change the direction of fan blades, first make sure the fan is off, and blades are not moving. Using a step ladder, locate the switch on the base of the fan. Move the switch to the opposite position. When you turn the ceiling fan back on, blades should be rotating in the opposite direction.
3) Keep blinds down, and closed, especially on south facing or west facing windows. If you have thermal-backed curtains, keep them closed during the day to keep heat down. Up to 30% of unwanted head comes from your windows. Closing off unused or rarely used rooms will help keep cool air in the more frequently used areas of your home. Opening windows in upper levels of your home during the hottest part of the day will allow the rising hot air to vent outside. If you have double hung windows, you can open the bottom section of the upwind side of the house and the upper section of the downwind side, and the low pressure will suck the air through your house. Make the outlet openings larger than the inlet opening, it increases the draft.
4) If temperatures dip considerably at night, let the cooler night air flow freely through the house, using portable fans if necessary. To increase the coolness of the air, try placing large bowls of ice or ice packs in front of your fans, positioned where the air will flow across the ice before continuing into the room. Once the ice melts, the cool water left behind can still help keep the temperature in the room down.
5) Consider grilling meals outdoors to avoid using the stove or oven. This can help significantly in keeping temperatures down in the kitchen and throughout the rest of the house. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that heating an oven to 400 degrees (or more, if broiling) will make your house hotter. This is why our ancestors, especially those in southern states, built summer kitchens to use in warmer months.
6) Switch light bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent lamps. Old style bulbs waste about 90% of the energy they produce in heat, and don’t last as long as CFLs.
7) If you’re a homeowner, consider using insulated window film, adding awnings and/or shutters to windows, installing an attic fan, painting your roof a light color, or planting shade trees to reduce the amount of heat your home absorbs. If you are a renter, ask your landlord for help with heat reducing methods he approves of, and may even assist you with. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates awnings can reduce solar heat gain by as much as 65% on southern exposure windows, and 77% on those with western exposure.