Keep a home cool... naturally
Summer is on it's way, and that means heat! While a large majority of homes use air conditioners, we can all save money by using them less. We can all save energy, too, which on the hottest summer days can have an immediate payoff: avoiding an electricity blackout caused by an overloaded power grid, and by lessening the load of air pollution emitted by our power plants.
Let's take a look at some of the best ways to stay cool without using the air conditioner. (Incidentally, these tips are also useful when the electricity does go out, leaving you without the use of your air conditioner.)
We start with the easiest, cheapest tips you can do right now to cool off – and then recommend some home improvements that can help keep your home cooler in the years to come, and tack on some tips for those of us with air conditioners we'd like to pay less to run or replace. And remember – even if you have and use an air conditioner, these tips can help you reduce your need for it, saving both energy and money.
Close your windows
It may seem like the wrong this to do on a hot summers day, but opening the windows will often make your home warmer, not cooler. Open your windows only at night if the air outside is cooler than inside, and close them – along with blinds and shades – before the sun hits your house in the morning. When night falls, open windows wide, particularly those oriented toward prevailing winds so you can take advantage of cross ventilation. This will allow cool night air to circulate, and prevent a good deal of the sun's heat from reaching indoors. You may also put houseplants – particularly larger potted trees – in front of sunny windows to absorb some of the sun's energy.
DID YOU KNOW
Closing your blinds during the day in the summer can reduce your cooling and electric costs? Radiant heat from the sun can significantly raise your indoor temp and cause you to have to crank up the A/C! Close the blinds during peak sun hours, and watch the savings grow!
Use fans strategically
Ceiling fans can create a pleasant breeze to cool a room significantly. Be sure that you have the fan running in the right direction since ceiling fans can also be used in winter to create an updraft. In the summer, you should feel the breeze blowing down. And remember, ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, so turn it off when you leave the room. If you're buying new ceiling fans, make sure you buy Energy Star ceiling fans that use 50% less energy than comparable models – a choice that will pay off in the long run, as you can appreciate the longer you keep your fan running.
Stand-alone fans placed directly in front of you, it's no surprise, help keep you cool. Add in a spritz bottle and you can dramatically change your temperature; as the water evaporates off your skin, your body sheds heat.
DID YOU KNOW
By placing one fan facing in on the side of your home receiving the wind, and another facing out on the opposite end of the house, you will increase the cooling power of a natural breeze.
Take a cold shower - go for a swim
It may sound obvious, but it's worth saying: If you're hot, cool off your core temperature by immersing yourself in cold water. Unless there's 100% humidity, the evaporation of water off your skin will further cool you once you emerge from the water.
DID YOU KNOW
If you really need to cool off quick - use water and ice cubes to keep your wrists cool; since your blood vessels are so close the skin there, you'll feel cooler by applying cold directly to your blood.
Install ceiling insulation
While ceiling fans may not help significantly to cool your home, ceiling insulation can help a lot. Insulation keeps cooler air in your home from escaping through the ceiling. If you have central air conditioning, also seal ducts – especially at vents and registers, where you could be losing up to 20% of you cooled air.
Plant trees & large shrubs strategically
Your house gets hot because the sun beats down on it relentless on hot summer days. Let nature help reduce your energy bills by planting deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home. In the summer their broad leaves will shade your house, while in the winter, bare branches won't stop the sun's warmth from reaching your walls, while they will allow sunlight to warm up your home in the winter months.
Also consider planting trees or shrubs to shade high-heat areas – air conditioning units that emit heat, for instance, and driveways and walkways that absorb it. Of course, sitting under a shady tree on a hot summer day isn't a bad way to pass the time, wherever the tree stands!
Install awnings or a pergola
Just as window shades and shrubbery work to shield your home from the sun's rays, awnings can save you money on energy bills by cutting down on the heat your house absorbs. This is an investment to make if you like the look.