Cooling your home in the summer can send your energy bill soaring. You can save money by turning up the thermostat, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer in the heat.
You can control the temperature inside your home without turning up the air conditioning. Use plants outside your home to cool things off, and insulate your windows to keep hot air out and cool air in. Avoid generating heat inside your home with appliances or incandescent light bulbs. Let in cool air at night and keep your windows closed during the day. Use fans throughout your house to create a breeze that can help you feel more comfortable, even when it’s sweltering inside.
Greenery on the outside of your house cools the air around your house through transpiration, which is the process by which plants release water vapor through their leaves. If you have trees and shrubs shading your house and particularly your windows, then you’re already benefiting from the power of plants to cool the air around your house and block sunlight from beating on your windows and walls.
If you don’t have any greenery around the outside of your house already, grow vining plants around your house, especially on the west and south sides. Vines are a good choice because they grow quickly and can cover the entire side of your house. Install trellises so your vines have something to climb. Choose fast-growing ivy, morning glories, green beans, or moonflowers.
Hot air beats through your windows in the summer, and it can heat up the inside of your house considerably. The UV rays can damage your furniture and flooring, too. Insulating your windows with the right window treatments can help.
In rooms where you want total darkness, blackout curtains will block out both heat and light. In other rooms, hang honeycomb blinds – they are made up of small, air-filled cells that create an insulating layer in front of your windows. They keep hot air out and cool air in. You can also choose solar shades, which block heat and UV rays while still letting in plenty of natural light.
Before there was central air, people used fans to stay cool. Fans create a breeze that triggers your body’s natural evaporative cooling system, so you feel cooler even though it’s not actually any cooler in the house. Ceiling fans are the best option. They’re much cheaper to run than central air, and they can create a nice cooling breeze in your home. If you don’t have ceiling fans in your home, consider installing some. You can install your own ceiling fan yourself in an afternoon, and there are lots of different designs available with lots of different features. For example, you could buy a windmill ceiling fan if you want more of a steampunk look, or something sleek and modern with only two or three blades for a more minimalist look. Floor fans can also help you cool your home – place them in the corners of your rooms and point the blades downward, so they circulate the coldest air that has sunk down to the floor.
Using appliances, especially large ones like your washer and dryer or dishwasher, generates heat. Even running the vacuum can generate a little heat. Avoid running appliances during the day. Instead, do your chores at night when you can open the windows and let the heat escape.
Incandescent bulbs also generate a lot of heat – most of the energy they use is emitted in the form of heat, not light. While a single light bulb might not generate that much heat, it can add up when it’s all the light bulbs in your house. LED bulbs don’t emit much heat at all, so they can’t heat up your house. They’re also substantially cheaper to operate and last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs.
Once the sun goes down and things cool off a bit, you can open up all your windows and let the cool, fresh night air flow through your house. Open windows on opposite sides of the house to create a cross breeze. Place fans in windows, facing outward to pull hot air out of the house. This will create some air flow and pull cool air in through your other windows. Close your windows before it starts to get hot in the morning, to trap the cool air inside.
This summer, don’t let cooling costs overwhelm you. Keep your home cool naturally, and find something more important to spend that money on.