As we start the month of May, we’re thankful for the warmer months ahead. The change of seasons always presents new homeowners with a conundrum — especially since, unlike many renters, you’re fully responsible for the heating and cooling of your new home — and summer is no different. Do you lower the thermostat to stay cool and accept the fact that you’re going to have high utility bills? Or do you save cash, resigned to the fact that your home will be a sauna for the next 90 days?
It’s a tough call to make. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 75% of American homes have air conditioning — and they use about 6% of all the electricity produced here — to the tune of about $29 billion annually. Break that down further, and U.S. households can expect to pay just under $150 on monthly electricity bills over the summer, as per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, with a large chunk of that spent cranking up the AC.
It’s getting hot in here, so take our advice
When the temperatures rise, heat creeps into your home, making it way too uncomfortable for many of us. That’s why many of us reach for the air conditioner. But isn’t there a better and cheaper way to enjoy the summer months than having to choose between saving money and sweltering and cooling off and paying through the nose?
Here are 13 tips on how to keep your house cooler when mother nature turns the heat on without relying on round-the-clock air conditioning.
TIPS FOR INSIDE
If the outside temperature drops to the mid-70s or so once the sun goes down, open up the windows. You’ll be surprised at how quickly warm air is replaced with cooler, more refreshing air. Just make sure your windows come with screens to keep pesky mosquitos out.
BE A FAN
It’s simple to use electric fans to create tunnels of cool air throughout your home. First, crack a window on the main floor of the house, Then fully open a window somewhere on the opposite side of the home. Since heat rises, this works best if the second window is on the upper floor. Next, position a window fan in that window to pull the hot air out and suck the cool air in.
A fan by your bed works, too. While they don’t lower a room’s temperature, they make you feel cooler because the air moving over your skin evaporates sweat and pulls heat away from your body. A fan moving at low speed (typically about two mph) can make you feel 3-4 degrees cooler.
GET SOME SHADE
Nearly one-third of the heat in your home is generated by the greenhouse effect — sunlight and heat enter through windows but cannot escape. The simple fix is to keep your curtains or blinds closed during the day, especially for windows facing south and west. Doing this can lower midday temps inside your home by as much as 20 degrees.
PULL THE PLUG
A significant source of unwanted heat in the home is appliances. The obvious is the oven, but all devices throw off a lot of heat when running. Even modems, computers and coffee makers with built-in clocks add up. Unplug what you can to mitigate their heat output.
BE A NIGHT OWL
You probably can’t get away with not doing laundry, but you can ensure your laundry room isn’t heating up the place during the hottest parts of the day. Washing clothes in hot water isn’t so much of a problem, but all that heated air used by the clothes drier can escape and radiate out from the machine. If possible, put the laundry chore off till nighttime when the whole house is a little cooler. Another quick tip is to clean the dryer vent regularly. The same goes for your dishwasher: run it at night to minimize heating. We start ours before bedtime and wake up to clean dishes.
GRILL, BABY, GRILL
Using the oven or the stove-top during the summer is a major decision. But you’ve gotta eat, right? Our suggestion is to use the barbecue if you have one. Here are some summer care tips for using and storing your grill. If you must use the stove, be sure to turn on the fan, especially if it vents outside. If it’s the kind that just recirculates air, it won’t really cool things down, but it will improve airflow.
OPEN THE DOORS
In winter, closing doors to each room helps you regulate (and keep) the heat where you want it. You’ll want to do the opposite in the summer, though, as air should move freely through rooms. Better airflow means a more comfortable home, so keep inside doors open unless you want those rooms to become muggy, stuffy ovens.
FAN OUT THE JOHN
To limit mold and mildew, we’re taught to turn on the bathroom fan after every shower. But in summer, it makes sense to leave the fan on for a bit longer — like an extra 10 or 15 minutes — so it can pull every ounce of muggy, hot air out of the room. And don’t fret about energy costs — running a bathroom fan costs practically nothing.
If you give in and decide to actually use your air conditioning, remember to change the filter every month or so, especially during the summer. A dirty filter reduces both air quality and the efficiency of airflow.
TIPS FOR OUTSIDE
MADE IN THE SHADE
A well-placed tree or tall shrub can make a world of difference in the comfort of your home, especially if it shades a window or two. Planting something today probably won’t make a difference this summer (or the next), but if you’re planning to stay in your home for a while, the eventual payoff could be huge. Plus, it’s also a great way to add a little something to your curb appeal landscaping.
PROTECT YOUR DECK
Awnings provide yet another layer of protection from the sun. Your deck is a magnet for the sun’s rays. And that makes going in and out of your home hot and uncomfortable. Adding an awning can reduce heating gains by 65-75%, especially if your deck or patio is facing south or west. If cost is an issue, we’ve found great shade sails that are much easier to install, remove and store.
When it comes to protecting your home from overheating, your exterior paint and roof are the frontline workers. Both should reflect and release the sun’s energy rather than storing and absorbing it. Consider repainting your home to a lighter color and getting a new roof with more heat protection than just standard shingles.
NOW, GET OUTTA HERE
Finally, here’s a recent blog post we did featuring the best outdoor games to keep you out in the cooler nights and super entertained! Enjoy!