One of my favorite parts of summer is basking in the warm sun. Unfortunately, though, it tends to get uncomfortably hot, fairly quickly. Soon, much of summer means that you’re stuck in an air-conditioned room with fans blasting nearly everywhere you go. Also, bad news for your pocketbook, that can also lead to high cooling costs. So, what can you do to save on summer cooling costs?
In your home, roughly 50 percent of energy costs arise from cooling and heating costs. Any actions you take to reduce the need to cool your house in the summer will cut those expenses. Here are ten tips to help you reduce cooling costs.
Only use your AC only when absolutely necessary. You need to keep cool and comfortable, yes. But there is also no need to keep the thermostat at 72 degrees all the time. Experiment with the temperature you find comfortable but not excessively cold. Then set your thermometer there — and be strong.
If everybody’s at work or school during the day, turn the AC off. If you’re going to be doing errands on the weekends, ditto. Turn it on or set a timer for when people will be in the house. Also, iIf you live in an area where the temperature drops significantly at night, turn it off then and open the windows. There’s no need for AC if it’s 68 degrees outside at 2 a.m.
In your zest to cool off indoors, don’t overlook fans. Fans use less energy than AC units. The moving air they generate significantly cools a room. Ceiling fans may be all you need in a bedroom. They let you set the AC thermostat about 4 degrees higher, on the whole, so you use less energy. A large standing fan set to rotate can generate enough wind chill to be your source of cooling, depending on the current breeze direction and outside humidity, and the angle of the sun through any windows.
When no one is in the room, turn the fans off to save on cooling costs. The wind movement makes people feeling the wind cooler — but doesn’t appreciably cool a room.
Be mindful of the actual temperature outdoors. Even in a sweltering July, an individual day may be only 80 degrees when the day before hit 95. The need to use the AC is much less on the relatively cooler day. If the temperature drops after a thunderstorm, is it cooler outside? Could be grounds for turning the AC off or turning it down.
If outside temperatures do drop for any reason, see if you can move to fans only. Again, you save on energy costs.
Remember, the sun’s rays aren’t the only elements that make a house hot. In normal or cold temperatures, an oven used for baking or several burners cooking don’t add appreciably to the heat. But if your home is already hot or getting there, baking bread or a casserole can send it over the edge into discomfort. You might feel like the stir-fry or scrambled eggs on your stovetop as you’re standing over them.
The solution? Be creative! Eat non-cook meals, like salad. Or barbecue outdoors. Microwave. Plan any baking for weekends early in the day or late at night, before you’re faced with hot, hot, hot temperatures.
There are a few home replacements that come around every 5, 10, 15-plus years which require a bigger up-front a long-term investment that you should consider (and start saving for, if possible). You can save on your electricity costs by swapping out old appliances every 5-10 years, such as dishwashers, washers, and dryers, in favor of ENERGY STAR certified appliances that use less energy and often qualify for tax credits.
When it comes to replacing your siding every 10-15 years, it’s also worth to take a look at how your insulation is holding up, because it can greatly affect how much energy your homes loses. You can take a look at this map to determine what insulation R-level is right for where you live. Last, but certainly not least, is your roof, which requires replacement anywhere from 20-30 years after installed. If you’re looking to strictly save on cooling costs, studies indicate that metal roofs can save you about 20% on your energy bill because they reduce the amount of heat transference. The bottom line is that when making a large purchase for your home, it’s important to consider all the costs involved, from base cost to energy usage.
Every appliance that generates heat makes a house hotter. Clothes dryers, dishwashers, computers, televisions, hair dryers all contribute. It’s not a lot, which is why you don’t feel it as heat during the winter. But if the thermometer has hit 98 degrees and the ice cubes are melting on the picnic table, running those appliances will not help you feel cooler inside. They may heat the house enough that you want to turn the AC higher.
So, think strategically. Again, if you can put in a load of laundry or run the dishwasher in the cooler mornings or evenings, it’s to your cost advantage.
How did people survive the dog days of summer before AC? They stood under cold water or rubbed their feet, forehead or hands with ice.
It still works. This is a particularly good method if you come home extremely hot and just want to crank the AC to the max. Step in a quick shower with water as cold as you can stand. Honestly, it’s refreshing! It will also cool you off, as will ice.
If your windows are positioned so they receive the sun’s rays directly, buy window film shades or solar screens to protect your house. These are see-through screens that cut down on heat and glare, but still allow you to see out of the windows. Most can be rolled up or down.
These shades will protect furniture and other rooms’ décor against fading as a result of sun exposure.
Ever gravitated toward the shade when the sun was high? Do you drive your car around a parking lot to find a parking space with shade from a tree? It’s very likely you do. It’s cooler under the shade than out in the sun.
If you have space for planting, develop a yard with the heat of the sun in mind. A tree or shrubbery shading windows or a roof can have a measurable effect on cooling your house. Make sure the tree won’t block the sun completely and make rooms too dark, of course.
Bonus — a tree that shades an outside AC unit can give it an efficiency boost of up to 10 percent.
While cooling costs are responsible for a lot of a home’s energy bill during the summer, there are multiple ways to save money while chilling. Enjoy the summer.