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How to Keep Your House Cool (Even During a Heat Wave)

When temperatures spike, it’s easy for utility bills to spike right along with them. The availability of home air conditioning systems together with the accumulation of warm, humid air inside your house can tempt you to dial down your AC thermostat setting to “arctic.” You do have some additional options, however, that can help you scale back your air conditioner use and still keep your house cool, healthy and comfortable. Here are some tips to maximize the benefits you get from your summer energy expenditure.

how to keep your house cool during a heat wave

Don’t Try to Maintain a Steady Indoor Temperature

There are some great reasons for letting your indoor temperature rise during the warmest part of the day, and for reconsidering your standard indoor temperatures. First of all, your AC system draws substantially more energy to power every degree of cooling when the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures is extreme. If you can face the idea of setting your thermostat at 78 instead of 72, you will save a disproportionately large amount on your utility bill.

Open Two Windows to Create a Natural Wind Tunnel

On days when you can skip the air-conditioning altogether, you can create pleasant natural air currents inside your home. Open the downstairs windows on the side of the house the wind is hitting, and open upstairs windows on the side of the house away from the wind. This way, fresh air will enter and push the warmer indoor air upwards, carrying it out of your house. A good way to increase this ‘wind tunnel’ effect is to place a fan near the outgoing window, turned to blow outwards. This aids in funneling the warmer air to the outdoors. Likewise, you can place a fan near the lower (intake) window and turn it to blow into the house, drawing the cooler outdoor air inside.

Prevent Air Leaks

If you do plan to use an AC system for cooling, you need to make sure the hot outdoor air isn’t leaking into your house. Check around your windows and doors for any visible gaps, and add weather-stripping, sealant or caulking to block the leak. Putting foam gaskets behind your outlet covers is another way to prevent unwanted air exchange. Peeling paint on window frames is also an indication of air and moisture leakage.

Clean Your Air Filters

Your air conditioner needs some TLC to perform at peak efficiency, and clean air filters are at the top of the maintenance list. When air filters are clogged or dirty, they block air flow through the system and reduce efficiency. Replacing an old, dirty filter with a fresh clean one can save you up to 15 percent on your cooling costs. Some systems have filters that can be cleaned and re-used, while other systems use disposable ones. Remember that suggested replacement intervals may not apply to your home if you have especially dusty conditions, or if you have pets that shed in the house.

air conditioning unitShade Your Air Conditioner

If you can keep your air conditioning unit in the shade, you’ll allow it to work much more efficiently and you may reduce your energy bill by as much as ten percent. The shade directly under trees can be as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than surrounding sunny areas, and the trees will also reduce the amount of solar heating that your house itself receives.

Close Your Blinds

Letting sunlight in through unprotected windows is great in the winter, but on hot summer days it’s like turning on a heater in the room. Make sure blinds are drawn to prevent this passive solar heating, especially in rooms that you’re not using at the moment.

Add Insulation to Your Attic

The heat of the sun enters your house through the roof as well as through windows, so insulating your attic means your whole house stays cooler in summer. The bonus of attic insulation is that it saves on energy costs year-round, because it helps hold in the heat in the winter.

Consider a Whole-House Ventilation System

When you seal up your home in order to run your AC system, you’re sealing in all the humidity. You add to this moisture by taking showers, cooking and even simply breathing. Warmer air can hold more moisture, but when your air conditioning unit kicks on, all that water is forced out of the air and it condenses on the walls, crawl spaces and basement areas.

Excess moisture in your home can give rise to a whole range of problems, from structural rotting to health risks from mold spores. Cold moist air can feel “clammy” and not very comfortable. Excess moisture in the air also makes your air conditioning system have to work harder to cool you off. Research shows that reducing the moisture level in your home results in a 17-percent savings on cooling expenses. A whole-house ventilation system is a way to lower the load on your AC system while providing you with a safer and more comfortable environment.

Combine your favorite of this set of cooling tips and make your home a cooling refuge from the summer heat.

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