Summer of 2019 is expected to be long, with above-average temperatures in several regions of the United States. Whether you’re facing a heat wave or just run-of-the-mill summer temperatures, it can be expensive to keep your home comfortable using air conditioning. Here are three methods for keeping your house cool in the summer without running up a hefty energy bill.
1. Control direct sunlight
Taking control of how much direct sunlight enters your home can have a huge impact on the inside temperature. It also happens to be something that we think about a lot at ODL. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, as much as 76% of sunlight that hits standard double-pane windows becomes heat inside the home. You can easily and significantly reduce the amount of heat trapped in your house by simply covering windows and doorglass throughout the day based on which direction they face and how much sunlight they let in.
To reduce heat gain while also benefitting from natural light, start by covering east-facing windows and doors in the morning, south-facing windows during the day, and west-facing windows approaching sunset. That way, you can achieve a savings win-win by blocking direct sunlight and keeping the lights off in some rooms to offset electricity costs.
You have a lot of options for window and doorglass coverings that cover a range of price points and aesthetics.
- Roller shades are typically inexpensive, and can help block out direct sunlight, but only provide a small amount of insulation.
- Curtains or drapes lined with a light-colored fabric can help reflect sunlight, and heavier fabrics can trap heat.
- Exterior awnings or shutters can prevent sunlight and heat from entering the home, which is more effective than controlling heat after it enters through a window or door but can be expensive to install. In colder climates, opt for retractable awnings, as you’ll want to maximize your heat gain from direct sunlight during the winter.
- Blinds offer a greater level of control than other options, as both vertical and horizontal slats allow you to adjust the level of light you allow into your house. Enclosed mini-blinds, such as enclosed doorglass blinds, Blink® windows, and Add-On Blinds grant the additional benefit of eliminating dust accumulation and removing dangling cords that can present a safety hazard to children and pets.
Finally, you can improve the energy efficiency of your windows and doorglass across the board with energy-efficient options such as low-E glass and triple-glazed windows. Low-E glass coatings reflect heat before it enters the home, and triple-glazed windows provide extra insulation to reduce heat gain and loss. If you’re looking for long-term energy savings throughout the year, it may be worthwhile to look into these more-permanent options.
2. Let natural airflow do the work
There are some summer days when the heat and humidity make opening a window unthinkable, but even when temperatures are up, creating some natural airflow through your home can work wonders.
If there’s a breeze outside, take note of the direction. Following that direction, open windows on opposite sides of your house to create cross ventilation. This will naturally cycle out warm, stale air for cool, clean air. Even without a breeze, the differences in pressure between the inside and outside of your house will create air flow, though you may want to use box fans pointed in the direction of the intended flow to speed things up. Just make sure you’re controlling allergens with screens and filters if you’re sensitive to summer pollens.
Another simple way to leverage airflow is to close doors to warm rooms and open up cooler ones. Prioritize the spaces that you spend the most time in to maximize your cooling efforts, especially if you’re using cross ventilation.
You can also use ventilation fans in your bathrooms and range hood to create air circulation. It may not be practical to keep them on all the time, but this trick can make a real difference during the hottest parts of the day.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be an article about cooling your house in the summer if we didn’t mention checking which direction your ceiling fans are spinning. When ceiling fans are running counterclockwise, they’re pushing air down through the center of the room, creating a breeze beneath the fan. If you don’t feel the air moving when you’re standing directly beneath your fan, it’s likely running clockwise, and probably isn’t helping you cool your house.
3. Switch up your energy use
Reducing the need for air conditioning is a huge opportunity to bring down your energy bill in hot weather, but it’s not the only way. Setting your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher and making changes in how and when you use energy can make cooling your house more efficient—and less expensive.
From the basics to some more creative methods, here are a handful of energy-smart tips that add up to keep your house comfortable:
- Turn off the lights in rooms you’re not using. Ideally, spend time in rooms that receive natural light from indirect sunlight during the day so that you minimize your use of electric lighting.
- Unplug electronics that you’re not using. Televisions, gaming consoles, laptops, hairdryers, and more use small amounts of electricity and generate heat when they’re plugged in but not on.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors shut. We’ve all stood in front of the open refrigerator trying to decide what to eat, or just for a quick blast of cool air, but this makes one of your largest heat-generating appliances work extra hard to regulate its temperature. Tempting as it may be, make sure you’re limiting the time your refrigerator door is open.
- Get creative with summer cooking. The usual advice for summer cooking is to avoid heating up the kitchen by cooking outdoors. Grilling on the porch or patio is an excellent way to enjoy the weather and season, but it’s not always practical to do it every day. If you’re stuck indoors, or just don’t want to deal with the grill, try creating meals without the oven or stove. Your blender is perfect for creating cold soups and icy desserts, and slow cookers are great for meats, pastas, and grains. For the ultimate hot weather ‘cooking,’ just don’t cook! These no-cook dishes from the New York Times are delicious in any weather.
- Time your energy use. Large appliances like dishwashers, water heaters, washing machines, and clothes dryers generate a lot of heat. Save your showers and cleaning for evening or nighttime, when the heat is less intense. Not only will you be more comfortable while you’re active, but your A/C won’t have to work as hard to keep the house cool.
- Test your thermostat limits. You may be surprised at how much controlling sunlight and leveraging airflow can lower the temperature inside your home. After you start using some of the other tips in this article, try turning up your thermostat one degree a day until you feel uncomfortable. Think of the air conditioning as backup if other methods of cooling aren’t providing enough relief. It’s amazing how comfortable you can keep your house without blasting the A/C!
It’s nice to get out and enjoy some hot summer weather, but it’s even better to be able to cool off at home afterwards. Using these three methods for temperature control can help you save on energy costs during the summer while still beating the heat. Take a look at one of ODL’s solutions for energy efficiency and light control with our Enclosed Blinds Color Collection to see how you can update your doorglass for looks, comfort, and long-term savings.