When the summer sun is beating down and all you really want to do is sit around in a kiddie pool with a cold drink in your hand, it’s hard to think proactively about keeping your house cool. Just crank up the AC and call it a day; you don’t have energy for much else.
We can all sympathize with the feeling, but running the air conditioner all day long will send your electric bills through the roof – and when there are ways to keep the temperature of your house pretty low, even without the assist from the icebox, its money you don’t need to spend.
Most summers, I spend a good amount of time teaching homeowners how to install water powered sump pump systems in preparation for hurricane season. Sometimes, these conversations meander into the topic of how people keep their houses cool during the summer, and I’ve heard a wide range of tips that people swear by. Here are a few in particular, which I think make a lot of sense:
Keep the Sun Out
The reason it gets to be baking temperatures in the summer isn’t because the air just magically turns hot when it gets to be June: it’s simply that the sun is out longer and its rays are striking at the right angle to just bake the heck out of everything, including the air. But if the sun’s rays can’t reach the air inside your house directly, the temperature will stay pretty cool; all that air is now only being heated by other – lesser – sources.
We’ll get to those in a moment, but first let’s keep direct sunlight from getting in your home. Make sure all the rooms that are exposed to direct sunlight have either light-blocking curtains or light-reflecting white shades. Heavy, thick curtains are also a good bet; essentially you’re trying to keep out both the light and the heat, and that thick cloth can soak up the heat that would usually wander into your home.
Quit Using Hot Appliances
Your oven generates a stunning amount of heat – as you probably remember from the winter months, when the rest of the house requires a sweater and thick socks but the Christmas cook is running around barefoot in a tank top. Use the outside grill, microwave, or a quick sauté on the stovetop to heat up your meals and you’ll avoid introducing oven heat into your home. If you must bake or roast something, see if you can fit it in the toaster oven instead. You might even be able to run an extension cord to it outside.
The other big heat-generating appliance in your home is the dryer. The heat from the dryer will drift throughout the house, raising the temperature, and it uses a ton of energy that might be better budgeted for fans and air conditioners. You’ve already got the hot weather and a baking sun, so why not hang your clothes outside to dry instead?
Check your electric rates. Some companies lower rates after 8 PM giving you another reason to wait to turn on that drier. Don’t let it keep running needlessly – pull your clothes out as soon as they are dry.
Make It Easy On Your AC
You don’t need to stop using your AC altogether, but there are lots of ways to help make it easier for the machine to do its job. You’ve already helped it out by making the overall temperature lower, so your AC doesn’t have to work as hard to reach the temperature you want (if you want your home at 75 degrees, it takes less energy for your AC to achieve that temperature if it starts at 85 than at 100).
Now it’s time to turn your attention to the AC itself. Change the air filter to make it easier for your AC to function properly; the filter should be changed at least once a month, and for most folks, it should be the first thing you do when you pull it out of storage. Also, try to keep your AC from sitting in direct sunlight, which makes it work less efficiently. Move it to a different window or simply rig some shade over the one it’s positioned in, and it should work more effectively.
Extend the Range of Your AC
Your air conditioner is already working on one side of the house, and it’s pretty comfortable in that room – but on the other side of the house, you get sweaty just sitting on the couch. You can’t afford another AC, though, so what can you do?
Boost the range of your AC by using fans and swamp coolers in other rooms. You can actually blow the cool air your AC is generating to the other end of the house with strategically placed box fans. If you have ceiling fans, be sure they’re revolving in a counter clockwise direction; this will help circulate air and make your house a uniform temperature – and since your AC is working, the whole house will get cooler.
Don’t Forget You
You’re the one who needs to feel cool, but you’re also generating body heat just standing around. If you take a cold shower or dunk your face in cold water and then plop in front of a fan, you’ll cool down quickly – which will both make you more comfortable, and keep you from working against your AC. Stay cool!