Whether you’re trying to save money this summer, cut down on your energy use, or both, here are some tips that can help you stay cool without running your air conditioner all the time. Don’t have AC? No worries, we have tips for that too.
For folks across the U.S. (and similar regions around the world) it’s that hot weather time of year again, and the AC is probably on (and may well stay on into the early autumn). Even if you live in a warmer climate, there are still things you can do to help save some money on your electric bill.
Adjust Your Dampers
It’s possible you’ve never paid much attention to your furnace dampers, but they’re an important part of maximizing your comfort and minimize your AC use. By adjusting the dampers leading to the vents in each room of your house, you can adjust how much airflow gets to each room.
Close off or partially close off dampers leading to rooms that are not in use, and open the dampers fully to rooms you want to keep the coolest. If the upstairs is consistently significantly hotter than the downstairs, you can adjust the dampers to force more AC-cooled air upstairs—don’t worry, the cool air will drift downstairs.
Adjusting your dampers isn’t quite as simple as just opening or closing a floor vent, though, so we’d recommend checking out our guide to help you locate and adjust them.
Invest in a Windows or Portable AC Unit
Even if you have central air, it can be a good investment to have a portable air conditioning unit on hand or a window unit located in frequently-used rooms like your bedroom or home office.
Why double up on the AC? While we can’t recommend blasting your central air at full force alongside a window unit, the idea here is the same as using a space heater in the winter. You don’t need to heat every cubic foot of your house in the winter to optimum comfort levels; you just need to make the space you’re in toasty. Same thing with your AC. If you like to keep it chilly when you sleep or when you’re working in your home office, use a window or portable unit to achieve the temperature you want when you’re using the space. There’s no sense keeping the living room frigid in the middle of the night, for example, when you’re not using the area.
Program Your Thermostat
Setting your AC to a low temperature all day and night is a great way to keep your house cold but not a great way to save money. Take the time to program your thermostat and if you have a newer smart thermostat like the Nest, take advantage of features like Home Assist that automatically adjust the temperature based on whether or not you’re home.
Even if you have an older programmable thermostat without the fancy features, you can still set it up to raise the temperature when you’re at work so you can save your AC budget for when you’re home and want maximum comfort.
The strategic use of fans can also save you some money. While you’re still using electricity, a fan is likely to use much less than an air conditioning unit. There are two great ways to use fans.
First, you can place a fan in your window so that it is blowing outside. This pulls hot air from your home, regulating temperatures. At night, when it has cooled off outside, you can put a fan in one window that is pulling in cool air, and one in another that blows it out. You can also purchase twin fans that have intake and outtake fans in one.
Second, you can always camp out in front of a floor fan or under a ceiling fan to cool off in the direct path of the breeze. Just remember to turn the fan off when you’re not actually in front of it. Fans don’t cool the air; they make us feel colder because of the breeze they create. In fact, leaving a fan running in a room when you’re not there to enjoy the cooling breeze just adds waste heat from the motor, however small the amount, to the room.
Keep the Windows and Shades Shut During the Daytime
The bright sun shining through your windows is cheery and might perk you up, but it is also making your home hotter. Keeping the shades closed helps block out some of the heat. You can also invest in blinds and curtains that block out more light and help keep your home cooler.
You should also keep the windows closed on hot days. Opening them only lets hot air in. Open your windows when it cools off later at night, especially if there is a nice breeze. It can be beneficial to let that cool air in and give your air conditioner a break for a few hours.
Be Kitchen Wise
One more way you can help keep your home cooler in the summer is to be wise in the kitchen. Don’t use the oven on hot days. Even just preheating the oven to bake something can heat your kitchen and the surrounding rooms a few degrees. Instead, make meals that will help keep you cool and keep the heat out of your kitchen—like salads and sandwiches.
If you need hot foods, consider using the microwave. The stovetop may heat the house a little less than the oven itself, but it can still increase the temperature in your kitchen and make cooking an uncomfortable chore. Microwaves, on the other hand, release a lot less waste heat into the kitchen while still getting your food piping hot.