The weather guys and gals say that residents of the East Coast are looking at warmer-than-average temperatures, while residents in the west will have “well-above average” temps in mid- to late-summer.
And the weather in the nation’s southwest? Well, let’s just say that there, the sun is white-hot, and even the sky is sweaty!
The summer heat brings flip flops, tank tops, shorts, swimsuits, beach trips, and sky-high power bills. You can handle the heat with these tips for keeping cool indoors – without breaking the bank.
Turn off the a/c when you’re not home.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? The Energy Information Administration finds that fewer than 4 percent of us turn of our central air when no one will be home.
According to the experts at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, air conditioning systems reach peak efficiency when they operate for long periods. But, shutting the system off when you leave in the morning and turning it on when you get back home “… will use less electricity than the unit would use cycling on and off for short periods to maintain the set temperature” while you’re away.
If the house is still unbearably hot while the unit is working to cool it down, the lab suggests investing in a programmable thermostat. You can set it to start the a/c back up when you get home.
Circulate the air.
Fans don’t really cool the air, but they do circulate it. As the air moves over your skin, it lowers your body temperature, sometimes by as much as 6 or 7 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the folks at Climatic Heating and Cooling in Virginia.
You can save energy (and money) by using ceiling fans. Set the air conditioner’s thermostat to a higher temperature while the fans are in use, and turn off the fans when no one is in the room, says Kristi Brodd of Advanced Energy.
You’ll save more the longer you use the ceiling fan with the thermostat raised. The fan costs about 5 cents every 12 hours, reports the New York Times’ Michael Tortorello. The higher thermostat setting will save you about 10 percent (for each degree you raise it) on your cooling costs.
Maintain the a/c system.
Even the most energy-efficient air conditioning system won’t save you money if it’s not maintained properly.
A dirty filter, for example, can lead to reduced air flow, and the unit will need to work harder to cool your home. The more inefficient the system is, the more power it needs, which can lead to skyrocketing bills. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a clogged filter causes the a/c system to use from 5 to 15 percent more energy.
You should also perform these other routine maintenance tasks:
- Ensure sufficient airflow around the unit’s condenser by cutting back shrubs and other foliage to at least 2 feet.
- A dirty condenser coil can increase the cost of cooling your home by 35 percent, so make sure that it remains clean. If you aren’t sure which part of the unit holds the condenser, check out this nifty diagram at yourdallashandyman.com. And, to learn how to clean the coil, watch this YouTube video from the Entergy Corporation.
- Clean the floor registers periodically so that they remain dust-free.
They’re called “window coverings” for a reason!
This money-saving tip doesn’t involve your a/c unit at all: Close the curtains or blinds!
The Department of Energy suggests purchasing reflective blinds, because “… when completely closed and lowered on a sunny window, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent.”
Draperies can block the sun and heat, provided the fabric is closed weave and medium-colored. Buy them with plastic backing and you’ll reduce the amount of heat coming through a window by 33 percent, according to the DOE. They also suggest that you hang your drapes as close to the windows as possible and let them fall onto either the windowsill or the floor.
Reflective films on the glass in your windows are also a brilliant way of blocking summer heat but their effectiveness depends on the size of the window, which direction it’s facing, and whether the window has interior insulation. The DOE suggests that you will get the most savings by applying the film to west- and east-facing windows.
Let Mother Nature help.
Strategically placed trees help conserve energy and reduces energy bills, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. In fact, you’ll save up to 35 percent on your air conditioning costs by planting large trees on the west, east, and northwest sides of your home. The Foundation also suggests planting a shade tree over your air-conditioning unit to keep it cool as well, but don’t forget to clean up the leaves and other debris from the tree that can clog the condenser!
If a couple of mature trees aren’t in your budget, consider providing only 17 percent shade over the house. According to Beau Brodbeck of Auburn University and Jean-Philippe with the University of Tennessee, you’ll save $10 a month on your power bill. Add another 33 percent shade, and you’ll save $20 a month.
Finally, the Department of Energy suggests that something as simple as a “… trellis with a climbing vine can shade a home” and help save money.
So, go ahead — throw on a pair of shorts and a tank top and slip into those flip-flops because you’re ready to take on the summer heat.
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