It is almost that time of year when we finally get to play outside, drink lemonade, and break out our favorite shorts and sandals.
For most people, summertime is highly anticipated, in all ways but one: the heat. When the temperature increases, the energy bills go up as well.
The increase in the electric bill to keep that AC running is something most people dread. If you are already living on a tight budget, an increase of even a few dollars in utility bills can make a big difference.
But you can take measures to help keep your home cooler in the summer and keep more money in your pocket. Here are some steps to summerize your home.
Outside Your Home
Here are a few places to start on keeping your home safe from the withering summer sun!
Seal up that fireplace!
Experts estimate that uncovered fireplaces add up to six million dollars a year in wasted energy bills. Although they may help to heat your home in the winter months, leaving a fireplace as is during the summer allows cooled air to escape.
You can install a door over the front of the fireplace to keep the air from entering the chimney. Also, make sure the flue or damper is closed and consider a seal or insert to keep cool air inside where it belongs.
Let Mother Nature Do the Work
The landscaping around your home can help absorb some of the heat created by that summer sunshine and make cooling areas of shade simultaneously. For example, plant deciduous trees and shrubs that will shade walls and roof sections that receive the most direct sunlight. It also helps to shade outdoor AC units.
Consider the benefits that trees will provide during the winter months and avoid blocking any breezes that can help to cool your home. For the best advice, ask a professional landscaper for advice on which plants and trees to choose and where to place them for optimal cooling.
A roof overhang protects your windows and the exterior of the house and prevents that hot summer sun from beating directly against your windows. This helps the entire house stay cooler and will lower energy costs.
Paint It White?
Light colors reflect light and heat away from your home instead of absorbing it as dark colors do. Therefore, you probably want to consult an expert before painting your shingles.
Windows and Doors
Most of the cool air that escapes from your home gets out through the windows and doors. So, doing some preventive maintenance in these places, like putting up weather sealing strips, can save you a lot of money on your energy bills.
Replace Storm Doors
Many people remove the windows in their storm doors for screens during the summer months. This will allow you to take advantage of cool breezes on days when you do not need the air conditioner.
Check The Gaps
Check the window screens around your home for gaps and tears. Adding caulk around windows and door frames helps seal up gaps that you may not be able to see. Any space where cooled air can escape from your home will make your air conditioner work harder and add to your energy costs.
Keep the Sunshine Out
Covering windows in your home with heavy drapes and blinds will block the sun’s rays and help to insulate them. This keeps the heat from the sun outside while keeping the cooled air inside.
The most important windows to cover will be on the west and south sides of the home, where the sunlight is most direct. You can even choose thermal curtains and solar shades to get the best chance at providing extra insulation.
Time for New Windows?
If your home has older windows, it might be time to invest in energy-efficient windows. While the upfront cost may be high, upgraded windows will save you money in the long run. Solar window films, especially the Low-E kind, are another way to keep warm air from coming in through your windows.
Cool Night Air
While the windows should be closed during hot days while the air-conditioner is buzzing away, take advantage of those cooler night temperatures by opening curtains and windows as far as possible. Allowing your home to cool off naturally overnight rather than running the AC all night will save substantial money.
Let the Breeze Blow
If you have windows in your home that are across from each other or even diagonally spaced, open both windows to create a cross breeze that will naturally cool the space. Enhance the effect with a fan in each window, one set to pull air in and the other reversed to blow air out.
Speaking of Fans
The more fans you have, the better. Fans will help circulate the air in your home, whether you have an air-conditioner or not. Place fans in rooms you occupy frequently. If you have ceiling fans in your home, make sure they are set to reverse (counterclockwise) to pull warm air up toward the ceiling instead of blowing it down.
Keep It Cool with AC
If you are in the market for a new air conditioning system, consider the pros and cons of window units and central air systems before deciding which is suitable for your home.
Window units are very inexpensive, considering their value on a sweltering day. And you can move them from room to room if needed.
A central air conditioning system may be more economical, depending on the size of your home. It will cost more upfront but may save you money over time. Plus, it adds value to your home. However, consider additional costs like maintenance and repairs.
If you choose an outdoor central air system, keep it clean from dirt and debris that can block the airflow. You will also want to have it serviced regularly to keep it in peak performance shape. Have the professional check for freon leaks and change the filter every thirty to ninety days.
Size Does Matter
Choosing the right-sized air conditioning unit for your home is essential, especially if the idea is to save money on energy bills. A unit that is too big is a waste of money and is less efficient. On the other hand, a unit that is too small won’t be able to cool your space properly and will wind up constantly running, eating up money in the process.
Check the Vents
Check to make sure the registers are open in your home in the rooms you wish to cool. However, you may want to close any registers in the basement because that space tends to stay cool. Close off any rooms you don’t plan to occupy and cover the windows with shades or drapes.
Make a note of where the return air ducts are in your home. Blocking off a room without a return duct won’t help cool it down. Instead, try using a fan and running the AC on the cool setting instead of automatic. This will help keep a balanced temperature throughout all the rooms in your home.
Look around in the attic or crawlspace of your home and close any air vents leading to these spaces. While you’re up there, add some insulation. Insulation keeps your home warmer in the winter, and it can also keep the heat out and the cold air in during the summer.
Other Cool Tips
Avoid using appliances that generate heat whenever possible. Or try to limit their use to the early hours of the morning or late in the evening.
The oven and the clothes dryer are the biggest offenders. So, opt for the microwave or grill outside on hot days, or better yet, choose cold meals that do not require cooking.
As for the laundry, use an indoor drying rack or an outdoor clothesline to save energy and prevent extra heat in your home. Plus, line-dried laundry smells better!
Check the lightbulbs in your home and replace any incandescent lights with CFL bulbs. Older style incandescent bulbs generate more heat and have been phased out of stores in favor of CFL or LED bulbs.
Cool Off Your Vibe
Taking steps to keep your home cooler and your energy bills lower is excellent, but there are some simple steps you can follow inside your home to make it feel lighter and cooler. Creating a cooler vibe might make you feel cooler too.
- Change out heavy bed covers and sheets for lighter options. Linen and cotton are great summer options and will stay cooler than heavier fabrics. Go for light, cool colors to brighten a space and make it feel more like summer
- Pack away clutter and knickknacks and opt for a more open, clean feel. The less you have sitting around to hold the heat, the better. Plus, it will give you a chance to do some redecorating
- Cover upholstered couches and chairs with light-colored slipcovers. Then, add some splashes of summer color with throw pillows or accent pieces
- Switch out wall art for options that feature light and bright colors. Or paint the walls to brighten a room with cool, light, summery colors
- Store heavy or dark throw rugs for use in the winter. Choose bare floors or go with rugs that are lighter and more summer-shaded
For many people, summer is the best time of year, and it should be celebrated and enjoyed. Do not spend your summer sitting around sweltering in the heat. Instead, take some simple preventative steps to maximize your comfort and save money this summer. When you “summerize” your home, you can focus more energy on enjoying the warm weather and sunshine and less time sweating over that next electric bill.
Image credit: [Adamkaz]