In the quest to revive AIRE’s blog, I went through old posts to get a feel for topics we covered several years ago. One post caught my eye from a colleague who was wondering how to cope with spiking temperatures without also seeing a spike in her energy bills. Realizing that summer was rapidly approaching, I wanted to revisit this topic and offer my own insight.
Memorial Day Weekend, as temperatures approached 90 degrees at times, I struggled to stay cool without constantly blasting the AC. I’m originally from Georgia, so I should be used to extreme temperatures. In fact, I made it one day by just turning on a fan and drinking plenty of ice water. Then, on Saturday night, I came back from a run and realized I couldn’t stand the humidity and heat in my house anymore. For the rest of the weekend, I kept the air inside at a cool 75 degrees (which, to give myself credit, is at least the Consumer Reports recommended setting to save money and lower energy use in the summer).
However, reflecting back, I am disappointed in myself for caving so quickly. Historically, electricity use peaks in the summertime. Since I want to contribute as little as possible this season, I decided to research some less energy intensive strategies to beat the heat.
Here are a few of the ideas I found:
- Turn the AC on sparingly while actually home and awake. Most people already practice this strategy in the winter, and don’t heat their empty residences while they are out for the day. At night, the temperature usually drops, so you can often sleep comfortably with your windows cracked.
- Keep your curtains drawn in areas of your home where direct sunlight enters. When actively using a room, you can still enjoy natural light by shifting your blinds so that sunlight only enters indirectly. I think this will help mitigate some of the worst of the heat, but it will have no effect on the actual temperature outside, so I’m not sure how far it may go.
- Use fans when possible. I know I sleep best with just a ceiling fan on, because it is the feeling of air circulating that makes me feel most comfortable, not the actual temperature in the room. You may find that the feeling of a slight breeze is just as cool as turning the AC down a few degrees.
- Only turn on the oven and larger household appliances (such as the microwave and toaster oven) in the cooler parts of the day. These appliances produce heat while cooking, thus raising the overall temperature inside your house or apartment.
- Install window film. In her original post, my colleague tried it out, and here’s what she had to say about it:
“At first I was skeptical that a thin layer of grayish plastic would work, but with a receipt in tow, I stuck the film on our most sun-worshipping windows. Success! The film provides a pleasant, barely-there tint, blocks up to 99% of the sun’s UV rays, and reduces heat gain through the windows.”
You should be able to find window film at any local home improvement store, and hopefully you’ll quickly recoup the cost in energy savings!
- Next time you redo the tiles on your roof, choose lighter colors. Dark colors soak up heat, whereas shades of white or gray maintain a cooler temperature.
- Install awnings where necessary- these also create a great atmosphere in the backyard for barbeques and parties!
This helpful article shares a wide variety of other tips as well: http://www.thegreenestdollar.com/2009/05/how-to-go-green-and-save-money-on-your-air-conditioning/.
So now that I’ve shared my tale, let’s hear yours… What has worked in your home to help cool things off without cranking the AC?
By Kelsey Kerle-O’Brien (with contributions from Laura Conant)