During the hot summer months, the air conditioner is convenient way of fighting the heat. Although dialing the thermostat down cools off your home, it also racks up your electric bill and releases great amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Each year, Americans spend $15 billion on air conditioning, the equivalent of about 140 million tons of CO2 emissions. Fortunately, there are other ways you can keep your home cool without consuming much electricity and increasing your carbon footprints.
Follow these guidelines to lower the temperature in your home:
- Close the blinds of windows facing south and west. Install bright-colored mini-blinds, shades or curtains that reduce the sunlight and heat which goes through your windows.
- Add solar sun screens and window films to windows for better heat protection. Optionally, install insulated glass windows with low-E coating or storm windows.
- Seal windows and doors to prevent heat and humidity from entering and cool air from leaving your home. Weatherstrip, seal or caulk leaky doors and windows.
- Keep windows and doors closed during the day and open them at night if the temperature drops to the mid-70s F or lower.
- Use fans – paddle ceiling fans (in a counterclockwise direction) and portable fans. Turn them off when you leave the room, as they are effective only when you’re in the room.
- Clean or replace AC filters once a month to allow air to flow easily through your HVAC system, saving energy and increasing the efficiency of your AC unit.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with high-efficiency CFL (compact fluorescent lights) or LED (light emitting diodes) bulbs that emit much less heat.
- Unplug electronics, such as TVs, computers or speakers when not in use. These devices use energy and emit a small amount of heat even when turned off. To easily switch off all of them at once, plug them into a surge protector that has an on/off switch.
- Don’t run appliances that produce heat during the day – dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, clothes iron, etc. Use them in the evenings or when it’s cooler.
- Cook outside, on the grill and eat more cold meals. Use the microwave for cooking / heating food to reduce the indoor heat.
- Turn the water heater down to produce less heat when showering. Also, take shorter and cooler showers and run the bathroom exhaust fan to remove hot steam when showering or bathing.
- Consider some long-term solutions for keeping your house cooler:
- Seal air conditioner ducts and insulate ducts that run through basements and crawl spaces.
- Install addition insulation in your attic.
- Install light-colored roof shingles or roof coating that reflects sunlight rather that absorbing it.
- Add awnings over unshaded windows.
- Plant leafy trees and vines around the house.
During a heat wave, there is always something you can do to further increase your comfort level: drink water frequently, eat spicy food, reduce physical activity, swim in the pool, and much more.