The dog days of summer have indeed arrived, bringing both fun (lakeside cookouts, fireworks, water skiing) and the not-so-fun (heat, humidity, and skyrocketing energy costs). With a little forethought and planning, there are small changes you can make to have a cooler, greener summer…without sacrificing any of the fun!
Watch Those Windows
Sunlight streaming through your window in the autumn can help warm a cool room. In the summer, it can be like adding a heating lamp to an already-hot home. Believe it or not, utilizing your home’s blinds, curtains and other window coverings can make a difference – not only in the temperature inside your home, but on your monthly energy bill as well.
TIP: South-facing windows generally get a lot of sun. East-facing windows will get the most sun exposure in the mornings, and west-facing windows will get the afternoon sun.
Roller shades, while inexpensive, can block up to 80% of solar heat. Blackout curtains not only help regulate the temperature of a room (keeping heat in or out, depending), but they also dull noise from outside, which can be an added bonus.
Your Biggest Fan
On the hottest days, pushing your AC down a few notches sometimes only makes a slight difference in indoor temperatures – and all the while, you’re taxing your cooling unit even further. If you have overhead fans, now’s the time to use them!
Circulating what cold air is being dispensed by your air conditioner can add to the overall climate comfort of a room. If you don’t have ceiling fans, box fans are readily available (and sometimes on sale!) at everyplace from home improvement stores to drugstores this time of year. They can be an inexpensive yet effective option to staying cool inside your home.
TIP: Run ceiling fans in a clockwise direction to create a wind-chill effect that will make you “feel” cooler.
Depending on where you live, your summers might be filled with a humid heat or an arid heat. Generally, high humidity makes any temperature feel hotter: ever found yourself sweating on a 70 degree day in New Orleans, where in Colorado that same 70 degrees might require a light jacket?
If your local climate tends to be muggy in summer, a dehumidifier can go a long way in making the inside of your home feel better: removing moisture from the air is going to make the temperature feel much cooler.
If you’re in the opposite – an arid climate – the dry heat can be stifling in its own way. Using an evaporative cooler (also known as: swamp coolers) will draw in air from the outside and pull it through moist pads, then circulate that cooled air with a big fan. These devices will cost you a pretty penny – well past $500 in many cases – but they can also lower the temperature of outside air as much as 30 degrees. Plus, they use up to 75% less energy than air conditioners.
Maintain Your Cooling System
Inspect your system’s air filter on a monthly basis, and change the filter every 3 months. Remove leaves, dirt and debris from around the unit’s outdoor components to improve air flow and efficiency. It’s also a good idea to have a professional tune-up your system with a pre-season maintenance checkup. If it’s time to replace your old system, look for models that feature the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Certification.
Be Mindful of Air Quality
According to the EPA, “…10 to 20 percent of all summertime respiratory-related hospital visits in some areas of the U.S. are associated with ozone pollution. Motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are major sources of ozone, which usually forms in hot weather. Ozone pollution can affect anyone who spends time outdoors in the summer, particularly children, the elderly, outdoor workers and people exercising.”
Stay up-to-date on your local Air Quality Index (AQI). Visit www.airnow.gov to determine your city’s Air Quality Forecast; if conditions are unhealthy or hazardous that day, consider staying indoors or restrict your time outdoors during peak hours. For an added layer of protection, installing an air purifier in your home can condition the indoor air you’re breathing and remove allergens, contaminants and irritants you might not even know exist.