Cool Your Home and Save Money Doing It

Photograph of a red and white striped umbrella against a blue sky with fluffy white clouds.

When the terms “heat wave” and “extreme heat” find their way into the headlines on a daily basis, it’s not surprising to see many families looking for ways to prevent higher electric bills while maximizing their AC units. To help give you and your air conditioner some relief, we wanted to share five ways to break up the heat this summer.

Shade the AC Unit and Add Curb Appeal

Photograph of greenery that provides shade in hot summer months. Looking to add a honey-do item that improves curb appeal while simultaneously lowering the energy bill? Look to nature to break up the summer heat. The systems that run your AC unit can account for about half your home’s energy, and shading your AC unit can save you money if you take steps to reduce the amount of heat penetrating the roof, walls of the home, and the outside unit.

While nature may be part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. Specifically, deciduous trees can be planted on the east and west sides of the home to allow their broad leaves to shade the home and cooling equipment. Since deciduous plants shed their leaves annually, they won’t block wanted heat during the winter months. Shrubs planted around AC units can also absorb heat radiating and bouncing off it. However, make sure any plant around the air conditioner is at least two feet away in all directions. While foliage can help with the heat, it shouldn’t be so close that it blocks air flow or clogs the unit with falling leaves.

Maximize Ceiling and Stand-Alone Fans Photograph of a woman sitting on a leather chair with a green cup in her hand and two dogs next to her.  She is sitting in front of a floor fan. When a heat-index crawls upwards of 100 degrees, many homeowners head straight for the ceiling fan switch, and those fans remain on for the duration of summer. To add insult to (electric bill) injury, portable fans can end up haphazardly placed around rooms to cool off a space. Since fans just circulate the air and do not actively cool a room, homeowners can make a few adjustments to maximize their fans and cool down.

During the coolest part of the day when blinds are open, keeping ceiling fans throughout the house turned on will help circulate and swap out the air. However, when that’s not an option, ceiling fans should only be on when the room is occupied. Ceiling fans help increase evaporation from the skin to help you feel cooler, not by lowering the room temperature. The same idea works for stand-alone/portable fans. When placed directly in front of a person, fans create the cooling-effect as intended. Make sure the fan isn’t placed on the opposite side of the room from the person trying to cool off. Keep it near.

Use Window Treatments to Reduce Heat Gain Photograph of a bedroom in a house with a bed in between two windows.  Both windows have brown curtains.

Windows help open up a room, bring in natural lighting and unfortunately allow unwanted heat to raise the thermostat’s temperature. Since the amount of heat gained through the windows can be significant, take this opportunity to dress up the room and lower the next electric bill. When replacing the windows with more efficient ones isn’t in the budget, blinds and curtains help insulate a room (we have a slew of design ideas “curtainspiration”).

Bypass sheer window treatments and seek out thicker materials. Since dark colors absorb heat, curtains with light-colored backing are ideal. Honeycombed shaped shades that appear to have side pockets or cells are also great for blocking heat. The more cells there are in the shade, the more energy efficient it becomes. The distance a shade is from the window also impacts how much heat is trapped between the window covering and window pane. For instance, many curtains and blinds that are too close to the window can trap heat, so adjusting the curtains to about two inches above or below the window would allow for optimal ventilation and prevent damage to the window pane.

Keep Appliances Away from the Thermostat Photograph of a fan on a table next to a thermostat.

Thermostats tell an air conditioner when to turn on and cool the home to a desired temperature and when to turn off. While the thermostat may be the brain of the operation, it can be easily duped into believing a room is warmer than its actual temperature and cause the air conditioner to turn on more often than needed – or wanted. All it takes is a TV, lamp or other appliance being placed near it. Even a minimal about of heat produced by electronic devices can wreak havoc on the thermostat’s activation process, so simply moving these devices to a new location can remedy this problem.

Enjoy Fruit that Helps Beat the Heat Photograph of watermelon and fruit salad arranged on a table with a green backyard scene in the background. Enjoying cold fruit helps the body’s internal temperature lower (just like a bowl of hot soup warms you up on a cold winter day), but fruits like watermelon, peaches, strawberries and honeydews also provide a rich source of Vitamin C… and water! A word of caution: the kids may need to take a cool shower to wash off the sticky goodness that runs down their arms after enjoying that watermelon. Another excellent way to cool down.

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This blog is made available by Mr. Electric for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed electrical professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.