10 ways to keep cool this summer
Summer heat is here. It's time to think about way to conserve energy and keep the summer heat outdoors, where it belongs.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American home spends almost 20 percent of its utility bill on cooling. Increased energy production to run cooling systems raises your costs and contributes to pollution that adversely affects the quality of the air we breathe. With that in mind, here are some tips to keep your home as cool as possible during this blistering heat:
- Use insulated shades and drapes over windows. Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun's rays from overheating the interior of your home. If you can, move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade.
- Ceiling fans use less than half the power of air conditioners and keep a room comfortable. Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room make sure to turn off the fan.
- Dim lights and use only necessary appliances, opting to cook in the microwave or grill outside instead of turning on an oven.
- If you have a programmable thermostat, program it to work around your family's summer schedule. Set it a few degrees higher (such as 78 degrees) when no one is home, so you are not cooling an empty house.
- Check your cooling system's air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it. A good rule is to change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool wasting energy. Also, remember to have your system serviced annually to ensure it's running at optimum efficiency for money and energy savings.
- Change out incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices. Energy Star qualified lighting uses less energy and also produces approximately 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting.
- Use an exhaust fan to blow hot air out of your kitchen while cooking. The savings in your cooling costs will far outweigh the fan's electricity use.
- Run the dishwasher in the cooler part of the day when the lower temperature can better offset the heat and humidity the appliance will produce.
- As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home's duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Also, make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls, and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.
- Prevent heat build-up in the attic by opening attic vents and making sure any lower vents are not blocked. A cooler attic benefits the living area below. An exhaust fan or whole-house fan mounted in the attic will pull hot air out of the attic and living areas and draw cooler air in.
Sources: DTE Energy, EPA
Teena Hammond Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.