Summer is coming. And depending on where you live, summer temperatures can go from warm to scorching hot. While retreating to the mall sounds great, it doesn’t quite address the fact that your home will feel like a sauna all day and night. Besides running the air-conditioning unit to the brink, there are other ways to keep your home cool and your energy bill low. Most of these things can be done without professional installation, and will not break your bank account either. We’ve all heard that you should close your windows and doors during the day, so here are other things to consider:
Install solar film on to windows: Basically the home equivalent of tinting the windows on your car, solar film darkens your windows so that less light and heat pass through. Besides cooling your home, tinting your home windows can add value to your home and some can even generate power!
Cover your windows with reflective material: Sometimes the best way to beat the heat is to reflect it away from the home, and those shiny windshield sun covers we use in our cars can also work for windows. A more DIY method is covering your windows with appropriately-sized sheets of tinfoil secured in place with clear scotch tape.
Use thick curtains or blinds (preferably light in color): If you don’t feel like messing with reflective surfaces, an aesthetically pleasing option is using light-colored blinds or thick curtains to block out and reflect a lot of the incoming heat. Keep your curtains or blinds closed throughout the day to be most effective.
Paint your roof white: While this option is more labor intensive and might require the permission of your homeowner’s association, allowing your entire roof to reflect heat can be very efficient at keeping your home cool. A non-profit organization experiment found that buildings with white roofs were an average of 25℉ cooler inside than other buildings with darker roofs.
Seal all air leaks: Just like you don’t want warm air escaping in the winter, you don’t want cool air escaping from your home in the summer. Sealing up any cracks and crevices around the edges of windows and doors can be very effective in reducing cool air loss.
Install newer insulation: Like sealing air leaks works for preventing both warm and cool air escaping, so does newer insulation in the home. Better insulation also raises your home’s value, so be sure the insulation you get is appropriate for your area’s climate.
Hang white towels over windows: If you’re looking for cheap and easy way to reflect heat away from your windows, try hanging white towels over your windows using a curtain rod. They are easily removed to let in light and are washable.
Open doors and windows at night: Once the sun has gone down, release any warm air your home has accumulated during the hot daytime hours by allowing cooler air flow into your home. Circulating air itself causes air to cool off a bit, so switching out your hot daytime air with the cool night breeze can really bring down the indoor temperature.
Don’t use large appliances during the day: One of the last things you should be doing on a hot day is generating more heat indoors, so waiting until the evening hours to use your dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, and other large appliances can assist in keeping the place cool and not stress your energy usage too. A notable exception is your refrigerator, of course.
Evaluate attic R-value: Besides insulating your walls and ceiling, be sure to check the rating of the insulation in your attic space. Evaluate which R-value (the insulation’s ability to reduce heat transfer) rating is most appropriate for your area’s climate to determine what kind of insulation you should have installed.
Change A/C filter: An often overlooked solution, your A/C unit use 5-10 percent more energy if the filter is clogged or dirty. Your best bet is to change the filter out on your A/C unit right before the hot months begin.
Cover outdoor A/C unit in shade: Much the same way you like to sit under shade when sitting outside, so does your outdoor A/C unit; the hotter the unit becomes, the harder it works and contributes to more energy use and wear on the unit. You can either plant hedges or bushes that provide shade or build your own awning for the A/C unit, but be sure to give it a few feet of clearance on all sides so as to not block the airflow in and out of the unit.
Plant tree(s) on the sunniest side of the house: Trees can provide shade for your home on a hot day, so planting one or more where the sun shines the most can be helpful in reducing heat transfer into your home. For many people, the south side of the house receives the most sun during peak daylight hours, so planting trees in that area may be your best bet.
Replace incandescent light bulbs: Besides using more energy to light up you home, incandescent light bulbs produce more heat than newer CFL or LED ones. Replace all the light bulbs in your home with greener bulbs to save money on your power bill and stay cooler at night.
Build your own personal A/C unit: If you don’t want to spend a lot of money buying a portable A/C unit, you can build your own using materials from a hardware store and some ice. See the video below to build your own A/C unit:
Spin your ceiling fan the other way: By reversing your ceiling fan’s spin, it will actually pull warm air up and away from you and let the cooler air fall towards you from cross breezes and floor-mounted fans.
Keeping cool in urban settings can be more difficult than rural and suburban areas due to the heat island effect; simply put, all the concrete, asphalt, and steel in city centers retain heat much more as the concentration of large buildings reduce the effectiveness of cross breezes to cool the area down. If you are like most people in the United States who live in a major metro area, doing small things like those listed above can help you stay cool while also reducing the city’s risk of having blackouts due to the extreme power draw A/C units produce during the summer months.
By Jonathan Dean
About the Author: Based in Los Angeles, Jonathan Dean has been writing professionally since 2009. He writes for JustRentToOwn.com and his professional interests include housing trends, personal finance, and new urban development.