The Cool Home: How to bring down the heat without high energy costs!

Summer is just around the corner and as we prepare for vacations, shorts and fun by the pool, we also prepare for higher energy bills for the remainder of the year. Even though cranking up the A/C to escape the heat is one of our favorite modern commodities, there are many things we can do around the home to help us cool off, save money, reduce energy consumption and improve our quality of life. With help from the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings by Alex Wilson, Jennifer Thorne, and John Morrill of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy I’ve narrowed down the most helpful tips to get our homes summer ready!

  1. Update Lighting Fixtures – If you are still behind on the fluorescent lightbulb update this is a great time to catch up! Common incandescent lightbulbs waste 90% of their energy in the heat they emit, making our homes a few degrees warmer and our bills a few cents larger. Updating and remembering to turn off the lights when not in use is a great way start saving energy!
  2. Doors and Windows Shut – It is equally important to keep hot air from getting into our homes as it is to keep cool air from getting out, so inspecting doors and windows for air leaks can save your A/C unit some strain and energy. You can easily caulk your windows and install (or replace) weathers strips under doors to help keep indoor air inside, inexpensively and with little labor. Most importantly, it is very important that these outlets remain close during the daytime, so reminding family members and teaching young children to save energy as a family can contribute to your home’s energy-saving efforts!
  3. Landscape for Shade – A major source of heat entering our homes comes directly from our windows, and while not all of us can invest in double-paned energy efficient windows for our entire home, a great alternative is to landscape smart. Strategically planting trees and vines around our homes, in front of doorways, and south facing windows can significantly keep our homes cooler by 50%, allowing plants to absorb the heat and providing a cooler shade to come into our homes. Not only does this provide pleasant views, landscaping is a great summer activity the whole family can enjoy, especially if it provides shade for everyone.
  4. Put a lid on it! – In addition to landscaping, installing awnings and trellises around the exterior of the home adds an additional layer of shade to our doors and windows, but the most important lid to remember is the roof over our heads. If you have a roof access you use as a deck for parties, consider laying down a garden or vegetable beds to keep the roof cool and create an outdoor retreat, but if this is not an option in your home, a new alternative suggest that painting your roof with a light, reflective white color can bring in significant savings!
  5. Ventilation – Many of us don’t know that ceiling fans can be adjusted seasonally to make us feel more comfortable, in the summer for example you can set your ceiling fans to turn counter-clock wise to create a wind-chill cool effect to keep you and your family feeling fresh. Another good way to ventilate our homes is by using our bathroom and kitchen vents to remove heat and moisture from the air emitting from hot showers, dishwashers or baking ovens, limiting these to later hours of the day can help us keep our homes cooler. You can take advantage of the temperature drop during the evenings to allow fresh air to circulate throughout your home, especially if the air is much cooler than your indoor temperature setting.
  6. Fabrics – While heavy drapes, area rugs and plush comforters provide excellent insulation during the winter season, these become heat traps during the summer. Uncovering tile floors and removing area rugs will make your home easier to cool as opposed to a home rich in upholstery. A smart choice for fabrics is cool and light cotton that easily breathes and stays cool to the touch. Using light fabric to drape windows or to lighten up your bedding ensemble will not only keep you cool, it will give your space a new fresh summer look.
  7. Soak up the Sun! – Although our summers are known for their extreme temperatures, making the effort to spend less time indoors can help us reduce our energy needs. Saving a few bucks this summer on energy may be a good excuse to spend more time out with friends, traveling to the beach, having fun by the pool and eating by the grill!
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