Saturday, December 10, 2016

How to Keep Your Home Cool in the Summer ... and Save Money

Gulf Coast summers — and any hot summers anywhere — mean busy air conditioners, which can equal higher utility bills. This summer, follow these tips for increasing your comfort without dipping into your vacation funds.

Know What’s Comfortable

It’s rarely necessary to keep your thermostat below 78 or 80 degrees. If you’ve set it lower, turn the thermostat up to 78. Then increase the temperature by 1 degree a week until you find your personal comfort threshold. Check your air conditioner’s fan settings as well, since low speeds decrease humidity more effectively.

Seal All Gaps

Every opening to the outdoors increases the area your air conditioner needs to cool and the amount of energy it uses. You know about sealing doors and windows, but have you looked for gaps around your electrical outlet covers? When did you last inspect the foundation and walls for cracks? If you have a fireplace, are you sure that the damper is tightly closed?

You can also take measures to keep summer heat outdoors by closing blinds at midday, especially on south-facing windows. Plant shrubbery for shade, and consider painting your roof a sun-reflecting white to keep out all possible heat radiation.

Let the Air Flow

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While you want minimal air exchange between indoors and outdoors, leaving inside areas open to each other can increase your home’s cooling potential. This works best if you aren’t relying on the HVAC system alone. Install a fan in every major room to improve circulation and evaporation. Remember that fans are more effective when they’re mounted higher and in the center of the room.
Turn fans off and close the door when you’re not using a room, or you’ll waste energy on unnecessary cooling. On cooler nights, you can keep the air circulating by turning off the air conditioner and relying on the fan alone.

Take Cool Showers

You needn’t take hot showers year-round. Instead, warm days deserve cool water. Try turning up your home’s thermostat several degrees before showering to reduce the outside chilling effect. Then leave the temperature at a higher setting for at least 30 minutes afterward. Showers have a residual perceived-temperature effect, so you won’t need additional cooling for a while.

Consider Vacancy Temperatures

Leaving the air conditioner off in your absence can save energy, but you might worry about returning home to a miserably hot and humid house. Luckily, technology offers the ideal solution in the form of budget-friendly programmable thermostats. In addition to raising the temperature while you’re away, some experts recommend that you set the thermostat to lower the temperature to 71 between 3 and 5 a.m. This may minimize humidity buildup and introduce some cooler air to counteract the afternoon’s heating effect.

Keep Up the Maintenance

Change or clean your air filters regularly, and consider switching from replaceable to reusable filters to cut costs and reduce waste. Don’t forget to schedule professional HVAC maintenance as well. This can easily pay for itself by increasing your energy efficiency, extending your HVAC life, and helping you catch minor problems before they become major ones.

Energy bills should never cause major problems. Save your money and enjoy the summer when you follow these tips.

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