Summer brings a lot of great things our way—more daylight, beautiful gardens, cool drinks and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, trips to the local pool, among other things—and it also brings considerably warmer temperatures, particularly inside our homes. Air conditioning is a blessing, but it’s also a significant energy- and money-grabber.
Here are a handful of other suggestions for cooling your house during those pleasant, but overly warm days.
Energy experts suggest you look for the ways to reduce solar gains—the natural heat your residence collects from the sun. Conduct an inspection of your windows, particularly the south- and west-facing ones. Consider putting up awnings or look into installing reflective window film. The latter not only helps to cool your home in summer, it also blocks the ultraviolet rays that tend to fade fabrics and furniture. Manufacturers like Indow Windows (www.indowwindows.com) make a window insert that blocks hot summer air as well as reducing exterior noise.
Planting trees and bushes to block the sun’s heat through windows is a good organic solution, but may require a considerable length of time for these to mature enough to become a solar blocker. This is a step you might want to take in conjunction with quicker solutions.
Check to see if there are seals or cracks around windows and doorframes. These permit warmer air to enter in the summer months as well as to escape in the winter months when you want to be retaining as much heat as possible, so fixing these with weatherstripping, grouting or other means addresses two problems in one.
Install efficient lighting that runs cooler. Only 10 to 15% of the electricity that your incandescent lights consume produces light—the rest is turned into heat.
You can always open your (screened) windows during the summer months, but do so strategically. You may think that opening all of your windows will create a nice cross-draft, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, open only the windows on the shaded downstairs side of the house and the upstairs windows on the sunnier side, creating a breeze that will carry the cooler air throughout your home.
Avoid using heat-generating appliances as much as possible in the hotter hours of the day. Do laundry and run the dishwasher in the early mornings or late evenings. Do as much of your meal preparation as possible in the microwave, or grill outdoors. Turn off lights when not in use and confine baths and showers to early morning hours.
Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The less difference there is between the inside and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be. Lowering your thermostat while simultaneously running your air conditioning is an energy-burn that forces your air conditioner to work harder than it needs to.
Of course, installing a ceiling fan is a good way to get heavy warm air moving in a room. Portable fans work, as well, but keep this in mind: Neither of these actually changes the temperature of the air. Fans cool people and pets, not rooms. Leaving a fan running when you are somewhere else does nothing apart from boosting your energy bill.