It can be hard to keep your house cool in the summer, especially without running up the energy bill. From cooking a quick breakfast to showering, pretty much everything you do contributes to the ambient temperature of your home and leaves you scurrying to the thermostat. And while we know there is nothing worse than sitting in a hothouse, we also know getting that energy bill at the end of the month can be painful if you’re not careful. Thankfully, these four ways to keep your house cool without running up the electric bill may lower your energy costs and help you make it through the summer without breaking the bank.
1. Keep Your Windows Covered
As simple as this one seems, as much as 30% of unwanted heat comes from your windows. So, something as simple as keeping the blinds closed during the day can make a significant difference in the way your home feels. In fact, Family Handyman notes that keeping the blinds closed, or even better, opting for blackout curtains, can reduce heat gain by up to 33% and lower indoor temperatures as much as 20 degrees. If you are at home during the day and don’t like the idea of sitting in a dark house, close windows in rooms that face east and west as these get the most sunlight and contribute the most to overall heat gain.
If your windows are older than 20 years, you may have a bigger problem on your hands that blinds or curtains can’t fix. But fret not, there are several things you can look for to determine if it’s time to replace your windows, or if a nice set of blackout curtains will suffice. And if you’re not in the mood to figure it out for yourself, we would be happy to come take a look and offer solutions.
2. Be Smart with Your Fans
Ceiling fans use about one-tenth of the electricity that a typical air conditioner does and are surprisingly effective at keeping you cool. According to Energy.gov, ceiling fans will allow you to raise your thermostat as much as four degrees with no reduction in comfort. While ceiling fans do not actually affect the temperature of your home, they do make it more comfortable. This is because ceiling fans cool people, not room air. But hey, if you’re comfortable, you’re comfortable, and if that involves not running the AC like crazy all day, even better.
We just want to make sure that you’re using fans the right way, meaning that the fan is blowing air down. If you look up at your fan, it should be rotating counterclockwise. This pulls cooler air from the ground and blows it back down on you. Many fans have a winter setting that does the opposite to assist with keeping your home warmer in the winter. To change this setting, just look for a switch on the base of the fan. Make sure the fan is turned off before you make this switch though. Switching mid-use can stress the motor, which isn’t good for the fan in the long run.
3. Avoid Heat-Producing Appliances and Activities
This one is obvious, but we feel the need to mention it anyway: using the oven or stove and other appliances like hairdryers can contribute greatly to the ambient heat in your home. Even taking hot showers can make your home feel sticky and gross, leaving you wanting to crank the AC down. The good news is that all of these things have pretty easy fixes! If you’re wanting a warm meal, take the party outside and opt for grilling instead. ‘Tis the season, after all. You can also turn on the exhaust fans in your bathroom when taking a shower to help control humidity. If you can, we suggest taking lukewarm or even cold showers in the summer and letting your hair air dry instead of using a hairdryer.
When it comes down to it, only you can decide if you’re willing to make these sacrifices, but we can tell you they will make a difference in how hard your AC has to work to keep your home comfortable.
4. Invest in a Smart Thermostat
There is a long-standing debate about whether it is better to leave the air running all day — even if no one is home — or to set your thermostat a few degrees higher when you’re not home. The argument for leaving it running is that your air conditioning unit has to work harder to cool your home when you do turn it on in the evening. Let’s just go ahead and nip that one in the bud. Yes, your AC may run a bit longer to cool your home when not left on all day, but it also won’t be running all day. Because the temperature is nearly 20 degrees cooler in the evening than the peak of the afternoon, your AC won’t have to work as hard when you come home after work.
This is where we make the argument for a programmable thermostat like the Nest Learning Thermostat. While they are a little more expensive than their inferior counterparts, these energy star models are superior. Not only are they the first thermostat to be Energy Star-certified, but they also save you an average of 10% – 12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills, which means they pay for themselves in under two years. They require no fiddling once they are set u,p and they will automatically crank the temperature up when you’re not there and down right before you get home. It’s a win-win.
So, there you have it. While all of these tips are pretty simple, they can really save you some serious cash on your utility bills come summertime, especially if you live in a hot climate. Still not convinced? Put them to the test. You may be surprised at just how much you can save by combining a few of these tips to keep your home cool.