Keeping Your Home Cool In Summer
It is hot. It is HOOOOOOOOOT. It is crazy hot. And unless you are one of those “children of the rain forest,” who flourish in humid 100 degree days, you are probably looking for relief, like the rest of us. But you probably are NOT looking to take on a second or third job to PAY for that relief. So here are some simple ideas to help keep your home cool without getting you hot under the collar when the electric bill comes in at the end of the month.
We are citizens of the 21st century. The most obvious thing that comes to mind when attempting to cool off a home is air conditioning. And rightly so. While air conditioning has really only been around for a relatively short time, there is certainly no more efficient or healthier means of making a home comfortable during the hottest months of summer. If you are lucky enough to have central air, be sure to have it serviced and the air ducts cleaned regularly for optimum performance, and be sure the units are the right size and strength for the areas they cool. If you use window units, open the front panel and vacuum off the filter OFTEN. Seriously – keeping that filter clean makes an ENORMOUS difference in the output of the unit. Again, when choosing a unit, do your research. Make sure it is energy efficient, and the right size and strength for the room it is servicing. Pay careful attention to the window area around the unit, to make sure it is sealed off well and not allowing the cool air you are paying for to escape. (And please – be sure he window unit is installed properly. Don’t relive that Seinfeld episode when the air conditioner falls out of the window. You might actually have been kind of attached to that cat or child that was playing outside beneath it.) Just as it is true for keeping heat in during the winter time, good insulation is vital for keeping cool air in during the summer. Good insulation, draft guards on doors, seals around windows . . . . don’t underestimate their importance in keeping your home cool. And close off areas that don’t require cooling, but will eat up the cooled air, such as attics or basements. During a serious heat wave, you might not want to turn your units off completely. Utilize the energy saver option, and set it to a temperature of about 75. That way, the units won’t have to be working and using up full power all day, but they also won’t have to chug at full power when you turn them on in the evening after the temperature has been steadily rising all day.
Keep as much sunlight out as possible and let cooler air in at night. During the day, keep window blinds and shades, and even drapes, closed, especially on the sides of your home that receive sun during the afternoon hours. Large, oversized, inexpensive bamboo shades installed on porch eaves can also help to cut down on sunlight. And here’s one you might not have thought of . . . if you are out of the house during the day, and will have the air conditioning tuned off, consider opening up closets and cabinets. Closed off areas such as those will actually store up heat. Of course, you’ll need to make sure you close them back up when you do turn the air conditioner back on upon your return, to optimize the cooling off of the living sections of the room. Even your landscaping and a little planning of the area around your home can affect the inside temperature. Shade trees, shrubs, trellises, gazebos, canopies . . . . great. Heat absorbing blacktop, rocks, cement, metal sheds – bad. Keep these things in mind when placing them very near to the house.
Air is cooler and holds less heat when it moves. Fans are a fantastic way to cool down a home, whether it is replacing air conditioning or enhancing it. A window fan can help bring in cooler air, although, because the window needs to be open for this to work, you wouldn’t want to use this method during the day when no one is home. Table or floor fans work well, too, especially if they are used in conjunction with an air conditioner to help move the produced cold air into the specific direction you desire. And here’s a trick – place a bowl of ice in front of a table fan to help cool off the air it is pushing out. Ceiling fans can also make an enormous difference, and is a less expensive and more energy efficient alternative to constant air conditioning. Running an energy efficient ceiling fan full-blast for 12 hours a day will only cost about $10.00 a month in electricity. Virtually all ceiling fans have two settings, one to pull air up (for winter use), and the other to push air down, so make sure your ceiling fan is blowing down in the hot months.
Remember during the month of June when you were young, and school was still in session, without any air conditioning? As the students whined and complained, the teachers would turn off the classroom lights, telling the students it would help keep the room cooler. Was this a ploy just to appease the kids and keep them quiet? Partly – definitely. But there’s also some merit to it. Incandescent bulbs do give off some heat, so change them to cooler fluorescent bulbs whenever possible. Also pay attention to which appliances give off heat. When possible, run dryers, ovens, dishwashers, etc. at night, and possibly even choose a cycle that does not involve as much heat. If you are running an air conditioner AND roasting a turkey, you are kind of battling with yourself. Humidity makes air hotter, and can be particularly dangerous to those with breathing conditions. Take showers or baths during the coolest times of day. If your bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen has vents, be sure to use them. Invest in a dehumidifier. Drier air is more comfortable and healthier.
These simple things can really make a huge difference in keeping your home cooler and more comfortable. And, if all else fails, make friends with that neighbor who has the big, in-ground pool in their backyard. That way, you can keep cool AND make friends. Win-win!