As the temperature rises, so does the cost of cooling your home, especially if you use an air conditioner. Obviously, the best way to keep your home cool during the summer is to use an air conditioner to keep the temperature down, but there are other options that don’t raise your energy bill quite significantly. Air conditioners may offer tempting temporary relief from summer heat, but they’re a huge environmental no-no. You may be cooling your home, but the fossil fuels you’re burning in the process are only making your summers hotter. This summer, leave the air conditioner in storage and try these environmentally-friendly alternatives instead. Fundamentally, the idea is to minimize sources of heat and remove built-up heat from inside.
Fans and Ceiling Fans
- If you’re looking for ways to beat the heat, a ceiling fan can be a great investment for your home. This one appliance can make a room feel 6 or 7 degrees cooler, and even the most power-hungry fan costs less than $10 a month to use if you keep it on for 12 hours a day. Good fans make it possible for you to raise your thermostat setting and save on air-conditioning costs. Fans don’t use much energy, but when air is circulating, it feels much cooler. Ceiling fans are best, but a good portable fan can be very effective as well.
- You should remember that even mild air movement of 1 mph can make you feel three or four degrees cooler. Also make sure your ceiling fan is turned for summer – you should feel the air blown downward.
Shades, drapes, or blinds
- Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house. Close blinds, shades and draperies facing the sun (east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon) to keep the sun’s heat out and help fans or air conditioners cool more efficiently. Always remember that the best way to keep your home cool is to keep the heat out.
- The most common sources of internal heat gain are; appliances, electronic devices, and lighting. Be aware from where the heat is coming. Now if you have air conditioning, use it wisely. Don’t put lamps, televisions or other heat-generating appliances next to your air-conditioning thermostat, because the heat from these appliances will cause the air conditioner to run longer. The heat they produce will make it think your house is warmer than it really is, and your system will run harder than it needs to.
- Unless you absolutely need them, turn off incandescent lights and heat-generating appliances. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents; they produce the same light but use a fifth the energy and heat.
- You should also try to avoid heat-generating activities, such as cooking, on hot days or during the hottest part of the day. If you are cooking, use your range fan to vent the hot air out of your house. By reducing the amount of heat in your home, you will have to use less energy to cool it.
- Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units, but not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity. Deciduous trees planted on the south and west sides will keep your house cool in the summer and allow the sunlight to warm the house during the winter. For example just three trees, properly placed around a house, can save between $100 and $250 annually in cooling and heating costs, and daytime air temperatures can be 3 degrees to 6 degrees cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods.
Roof and Walls
- Paint your roof white – If you’ve got a flat roof, paint it with a specially formulated reflective paint or just paint it white. The reflective effect will help to keep the rooms under the flat roof much cooler.
- If your energy bill is unusually high, check the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of your current air conditioner. The system efficiency of air conditioners is measured in SEER, which usually ranges from 13-22. The higher the SEER, the greater the system’s energy efficiency and the lower the overall carbon footprint of your household. You can think of SEER like miles per gallon in your car. If you buy a car with better gas mileage, it’s better for your savings and for the environment.
Other things to remember
- Humidity makes room air feel warmer, so reduce indoor humidity. Minimize mid-day washing and drying clothes, showering, and cooking. And when you must do these things, turn on ventilating fans to help extract warm, moist air.
- Avoid landscaping with lots of unshaded rock, cement, or asphalt on the south or west sides because it increases the temperature around the house and radiates heat to the house after the sun has set.
- If the attic isn’t already insulated or is under-insulated, insulate it NOW. Upgrading from 3 inches to 12 inches can cut cooling costs by 10 percent.