This has already been a year of unusual weather—who knows what the summer will bring? Some of us, though, will try to delay turning on the air conditioning for as long as possible, to conserve energy and save a few dollars. The basic rules for doing this: keep the heat and humidity out, let the cool air in.
Early in the morning, close the windows and draw the curtains or blinds to shut out the sun’s heat. At night, when it cools down, open up the windows to let in the breeze. Consider adding landscaping to block the sun (including around the air-conditioning unit and near heat-absorbing pavement) or awnings to provide shade.
Keep track of the temperature with both indoor and outdoor thermometers—when it’s cooler outside, that’s the time to open windows and doors for ventilation.
Fantastic four: chill ways to circulate air
Here are four ways fans can circulate air for comfort and savings:
1. Window fans can draw in cooler air at night.
2. Ceiling or floor fans help make a room feel more comfortable, although they should be turned off when people leave the room. Be sure to adjust the ceiling fan properly—the blades should be set to pull air up in the winter and push it down in the summer.
3. Whole-house fans can be used to pull warm air out of the house, pushing it into the attic, where the pressure imbalance causes the heat to escape through vents and also pulls cooler air into the main living areas.
4.A whole-house fan is different from an attic fan, which can force the hot air out of the attic, but doesn’t draw cooler air in elsewhere.
Greener ways to summer housework
Keep the oven off to avoid heating up the house—summer is a great time to cook on the grill, use the microwave, and eat cold foods. If you cook on the stovetop, cover the pans with lids and run the exhaust fan to remove heat. Power down other heat-generating appliances, such as televisions and computers, and turn off the lights where not needed. Keep heat and humidity levels down by doing laundry, washing the dishes, or taking showers early or late in the day. Switch from incandescent to energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, which throw off less heat. Don’t run the dryer—hang the laundry outside.
Even when it’s steamy hot, cold water on the skin helps—try a damp kerchief around the neck or a spritzer bottle in front of the fan.
And don’t forget insulation—a well-insulated attic keeps a house cooler in the summer as well as warmer in the winter.