Thursday, September 3, 2009

11 Ways to Lower Your Summer Cooling Bills

With summer temperatures reaching their higher limits and the humidity closely following suit, keeping cool is a primary concern for many people. If it were a year or two ago, one answer to this concern might be to keep the AC flowing as high as necessary to stay cool. Yet, this year, the economics of home ownership and rental are, quite possibly, a bit different. Finding ways to keep cool and keep money in your pocket is a goal of many, or so I’ve heard.

So, how do you stay cool in this heat and keep your energy bills low? Following these suggestions could be a good way to start:

Lower Cost:
  • Keep air moving, but only if you are in the room. Human thermal comfort is influenced by four factors, one of which is air movement. Fans create a natural breeze which carries heat and moisture away from the body. People “feel” cooler even though the air temperature has not changed. The trick is to only keep the fans blowing when someone is in the room. Otherwise, the fans’ energy is wasted and may increase the heat.
  • Close window blinds, curtains, or other coverings on east and west sides of your home in the summer to prevent solar heat gain. The sun’s heat will be absorbed into your home’s floor, walls, and other internal masses if you allow exposure. Then, that heat is trapped in your home and will re-radiate into the internal air.
  • Remove or decrease the moisture and heat from the kitchen and bathroom. Don’t hang laundry in the bathroom because the increased humidity will make your home feel warmer. Use exhaust fans when necessary.
  • Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs which release less heat.
Middle-level Cost:
  • Use weather-stripping to seal leaky doors and windows where your conditioned air is escaping.
  • Use plants or other shading devices on the outside of east and west walls and windows to intercept the sun’s rays and then release the absorbed heat to the outside air. Although curtains and other internal window coverings block the sun, they do absorb the sun’s heat and then release that heat inside the house.
  • Buy a programmable thermostat. For $50-70, you can decrease your consumption by approximately $180 per year according to ENERGY STAR.
Higher Cost:
  • Add insulation to your attic. Approximately 40% of heat loss and heat gain occur through your roof.
  • Seal your heating and cooling ductwork if you have it. Gaps and openings lower the efficiency of your cooling equipment dramatically.
  • Consider buying or making a solar oven and cook your meals outside.
  • Install a whole house fan which will remove warmer interior air after the night cools down outside. This is an especially great option for people in climates where the summer nights are at least 15 degrees cooler than the days.
Finding strategies to keep cool and keep costs down is part and parcel of living in this point in our world’s economic history. With some ingenuity and planning, we can be comfortable and keep our money for those fun summer blockbusters!

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