Ask the Expert: What's a low-cost way to beat the heat?
Heather Ferrier, an Approved Contributing Expert with ProudGreenHome, shares her insights on how to lower energy costs while keeping your home cool this summer:
It's a catch-22 for those of us who live in climates that experience hot summers — as temperatures rise, we crank up our air conditioners, only later to feel the pain of enlarged electric bills. As a nation, we spend more than $15 billion each year on air conditioning. Unfortunately, as we drain our wallets to keep our houses cool, we are simultaneously burning an overwhelming amount of fossil fuels.
The good news is that by not only taking advantage of advances in energy efficient technologies, we can also borrow natural cooling wisdom from the days before air condition was widely available, staying comfortable without huge energy bills or carbon footprints.
In general, the less heat that enters or builds inside our homes, the less our A/C's have to race to fight to keep indoor temperatures comfortable. Here are a few simple strategies:
- Close windows and window coverings in the morning before the day heats up, and then open them back up in the evening to flush your home with cooler air.
- Turn off lights when not in use, especially incandescent and halogen lights, which give off a lot of heat. When possible, replace with cooler LED's or CFL's.
- Unplug electronic equipment when not in use, or use a "smart" power strip to completely turn off electronics. Most electronics continue to draw "phantom loads" even when not in use, which in turn generate heat.
- Do laundry and cooking in the cooler parts of the day. Even better, use a clothesline, cook outdoors or choose meals that don't require cooking.
- Use ceiling fans to assist in cooling down those last few degrees instead of lowering your thermostat.
For efficient A/C operation, ensure the following:
- Ensure that your A/C filters are replaced in a timely manner. When they're not, it can cause your A/C to work harder than necessary as a result of restricted airflow.
- Make sure that indoor supply and return grilles are not blocked by furniture.
- Every two to three years, hire a professional to inspect, clean and tune your system. This has the potential to save you as much as 15 percent on your air conditioning costs.