Summer is upon us, and with it comes the heat, and with heat comes higher cooling bills for your home. Fortunately, instead of just running the air conditioning at full blast, we gathered some of the best tips for keeping your home cool to get you through the summer (and even save you some cash).
1. Run your heat-producing appliances at night.
Many of us toss a load of laundry in or start the dishwasher early in the day so it’s done by the evening, but the heat these machines produce has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is into your home. If it won’t disturb your sleep, you can hit the run cycle before you go to bed instead, helping mitigate that extra heat to a time when your home is already cooler. If you have the ability, you can even consider using a clothesline instead of your dryer to skip that added heat entirely.
If you leave lights or appliances on during the day, such as computers or your TV, the heat they produce also adds up. Turn off things that you aren’t using and you save on energy bills twice over. If you have kids, their gaming consoles spout heat, so make sure they turn them off entirely instead of just putting them into sleep mode.
2. Check your filters and fans.
Many furnaces have an option for continuous fans which mostly gets used in the winter, but during the summer if you can keep it running, it actually helps keep the cool air in your home circulating so your downstairs isn’t freezing while your A/C tries to cool off the warmer upstairs. It also helps the air feel fresher in general.
Ceiling fans help in this aspect too, and if you’ve flipped the blades for the summer so air blows downwards (it should spin counterclockwise when you look up at it), you get the nice breeze effect from the air too. Energy Star-rated ceiling fans are about 10% more effective, so if need be, look at upgrading your older fans as well.
Internet hack: Set a bowl of ice water in front of stand/box fans for a simple way to very quickly cool the air.
Run your bathroom exhaust fan when you shower, because obviously, you want that humid and hot air leaving your home entirely. Many people enjoy cooler showers and baths during warm weather too, and reducing the water temperature reduces that air temperature in your bathroom (plus cold showers are good for your health, your brain, and even your skin).
Keeping your A/C’s fan clean and clear is also a must. If it has to work harder, it charges you for that overtime in the form of bills, and the same is true of your laundry dryer. Not only is keeping that lint trap clean and clear necessary to prevent fires, but the clearer the whole line, the more of that heat exits your house. If you check the lint trap every time, pat yourself on the back! But additionally, make sure to clean out the vent that lets air exit your home too – that can gain lint, hold heat inside your home, and catch on fire as well. (While you’re at it, clean out under your fridge and stove. Those heating elements when covered in dust trap heat and make the appliances work harder too.)
Last but not least, your AC has filters that need to be changed regularly. During summer months, they really should be swapped out every 4-6 weeks. Not only does this help your AC run more efficiently, but it helps you have better air quality within your home.
3. Add Greenery
Inside your home, plants can actually help keep you cool, like aloe, cacti, ficus and ferns. They can even reduce the temperature by up to 10 degrees.
Outside, foliage that shades your home also helps keep it cool (and protected from adverse weather as well). Obviously it takes time for trees to grow, but you can buy tall saplings or add vines and tall shrubs to raise your property value, make your yard more enjoyable and attractive, and help reduce your home’s temperature.
4. Cover or Shade Your Windows
As much as 30% of unwanted heat comes in through your windows. Adding in shades, blinds, insulating curtains, solar screens or tinted films can reduce indoor temperatures by as much as 20 degrees, and on average saves people 7% on energy costs alone. Not all window coverings are equal, though. In order to really keep heat out, the color and fabric matter just as much as how they’re installed.
“In cooling seasons, about 76% of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat.” – Department of Energy
Outside windows can be shaded with shutters, which not only look beautiful but have a practical use in blocking unwanted sun and heat as well.
Adding an awning over your back patio or porch does a lot more than just shade you while you’re outside. They literally can cut your air conditioning costs by 40-45%. The Department of Energy found “Awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows.”
Automating your windows also has an amazing benefit (that outweighs the electricity of the automation) by allowing you to program times when window coverings open and close. Some even can be programmed with sunrise and sunset! 75% of people leave window coverings in the same position all day, but if you automatic window coverings, even just specific ones, you can rest knowing that by the time the sun is reaching that west-facing window, the blinds are already closed for you without you lifting a finger.
5. Grill, baby, grill
Grilling is a huge part of summer cooking just thanks to our culture, but it also has the added benefit of not adding a ton of heat to your kitchen. If you must cook indoors, make sure you’re flipping on that exhaust vent.
If you have an awning over your grilling area, it’ll be up to 20 degrees lower than the rest of your yard in that shade too, so no need to stand in the sun. Make yourself a cool drink and enjoy some new grilling recipes. If you haven’t tried adding a smoker box to your gas grill yet, you’re in for a real treat.
6. Sleep Cooler without Cranking the AC
Not only does heat make bills higher, but it really can reduce our quality of sleep. Many people are unable to sleep well if a room is too warm, and for some, overheating even causes nightmares. Aside from just raising the AC at night, there are other ways to keep your bedroom nice and comfortable for optimal sleep.
Toss those heavy duvets back in storage and break out the lighter blankets. Change out your flannel or silk sheets for lightweight cotton. Cotton sheets absorbs sweat and in turn, helps keep you cooler by getting that moisture off your skin, and they’re much more breathable than synthetic materials. On the same token, wash your sheets regularly to remove body oils and sweat that stay warm against your skin.
Buying a mattress topper and pillow that are “cooling” really can make a huge difference, even enough to let you not crank up the AC before bedtime. Some really fancy mattress pads actually let you digitally set a temperature for your bed (though they’re quite an investment). There are even temperature-regulating sheets made with “phase-change materials” (PCM) that was originally designed for NASA.
If the air outside drops below the temperature inside, crack open some windows and turn on your fans. Take advantage of natural cool air whenever you can.