Beat the Heat -- For Less
A cool, comfortable house is a welcome escape from summer heat, but sometimes you can end up just as uncomfortable inside your home as outside. Whether your indoor cooling system consists of central air or a few well-placed window fans, here are additional ways to keep your cool without spending a fortune.
Timing is Everything
Run heat-generating appliances like ovens, dishwashers and clothes dryers only at night, when outdoor temperatures are cooler and the machines won't exacerbate the heat as much. (Plus, in the case of a dishwasher or clothes dryer, you can "set it" and go to bed, leaving unloading for the next day, when the appliance will have cooled down again.)
Roughly 40 percent of the unwanted heat that builds up in your home comes in through the windows, so installing energy-efficient units can make a clear difference. Since most energy efficient window features can’t actually be seen, it’s important to know what to ask for. For starters, request double-pane windows with low-e glass. The “e” stands for emissivity, and that’s what stands between you and lots of heat-producing UV radiation that drives up your cooling bills.
You’ve probably heard it said a million times: “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Portable dehumidifiers need constant emptying, but whole-home dehumidifiers run 24/7 to keep humidity down throughout your entire home.
Carefully positioned shade trees can save up to 25 percent of a household’s energy consumption for heating and cooling. On average, a well-designed landscape provides enough energy savings to return your initial investment in less than eight years. The type of tree you select will vary depending on the part of the country you live in, so check with a nursery to choose the best one for your yard.
Improve Your Drainage
Homes will stay cooler and drier if the outside grading and drainage conditions are maintained. Poor drainage leads to higher moisture levels inside the home, which are uncomfortable as well as unhealthy. Your yard and roof are the two major drainage zones to watch and correct if needed. In the yard, soil should slope around the house so that it diverts water away from the house. And where the roof’s concerned, make sure it’s rimmed by clean, operable gutters that carry water well away from the house and its foundation.
If you have ceiling fans, take advantage of their one energy-efficient feature: reversible motors. By controlling the direction of the blades, you can use the fan to pull cold air up in the summer and push warm air down in the winter. You can further upgrade fan efficiency by installing an Energy Star-qualified model, which is up to 50 percent more energy efficient than a conventional fan.