Summer will be here before you know it, and that means just one thing: heat!
Depending on where you live, the temperatures could be shooting up into the stratosphere as early as May, leaving you to either sweat it out or come up with a solution to keep cool in your home.
Of course, the obvious solution for cooling in summer is also the most expensive. Running an air conditioner ’round the clock will keep you comfortable right up until you get your electricity bill. It only takes one bill that’s two or three times as expensive as usual to make you step back and take stock of the situation.
Fortunately, there are several ways to stay cool during the summer that aren’t as luxurious as cranking up the air conditioning. Try one or more of these hacks to get more bang for your buck when it comes to cooling in summer, and you can bank your savings toward a summer vacation to a less steamy location.
Let’s get started.
For Novices: Tips to Make Your Air Conditioning More Efficient
If you already have an air conditioner that you’re addicted to, that’s okay — but let’s see if you can improve your overall energy efficiency know-how to keep your home cool for less.
1. Tune Up Central Air Systems Every Spring
If you have a central air conditioning system in your home, make sure it functions at its best by having an HVAC pro give it a tune-up before you turn it on in the spring. This will keep it running at maximum efficiency so you save energy. Minimally, DIY the tune-up by vacuuming the compressor coils and changing the filter.
Pro Tip: Every kind of air conditioner from window units to portable A/C systems will benefit from a good cleaning to keep them running efficiently.
2. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Don’t waste money cooling your home when you’re not around. If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, you definitely need one. They’re relatively inexpensive, and you can install one yourself without much fuss.
Set your thermostat to only come on when you’re at home and actually need the cool air. When you’re at work, set it as high as possible so the A/C never has to come on.
3. Kick Your Old Air Conditioner to the Curb
If you have a dinosaur of a window unit, it’s almost certainly not very efficient. Though it will cost some cash upfront to buy a new one, choosing a certified Energy Star model will ensure that you have an air conditioner that uses as little electricity as possible to get the job done. The energy savings you reap from making the switch could help pay for the new unit in a single season if your old one was a power hog.
4. Shade Your Compressor Unit
If you have a central air system with an outdoor compressor, you can help it do its job by keeping it in the shade. Hopefully it was installed on the north side of your house, but if not, you can strategically plant some shrubs or a climbing vine on a nearby trellis to create some useful shade for your unit in the afternoon. This will keep hot air away so the A/C unit doesn’t have to work so hard to keep things cold.
For the Next Level: Hacks to Keep Your House Cool in Hot Weather
There’s a lot more you can do to cool your home than just rely on your air conditioner. Use these tricks and tips to keep your house cooler so you can turn your air conditioner on less.
5. Embrace Ceiling Fans
A well-placed ceiling fan will make you feel a lot cooler on a hot day — and it can add some flair to your home decor if you pick a good one. Run the fan counterclockwise for the strongest airflow to your skin. While a ceiling fan doesn’t actually lower your home’s temperature, it makes your skin feel up to 8 degrees cooler thanks to the windchill effect. And if you feel colder, you can turn up your thermostat accordingly.Pro Tip: Place a ceiling fan over your bed for better sleep on hot summer nights.
6. Get Made in the Shade
All that solar energy blasting through your windows can raise your home’s temperature by a lot during the day, and this will mean your air conditioner has to work hard to do its job. Use insulating curtains and light-blocking shades to keep the sun out all day long, and your house will stay cooler through late afternoon and the evening.
7. Manage Your Open Windows
If you love fresh air, be sure you know how to work your windows to minimize heat gain throughout the day. Open your windows during the cooler night to allow fresh air to naturally cool your home. By early morning, temperatures will be as low as they’ll get, so be sure to close the windows and draw the blinds again before the temperatures rise during the day. This will keep warm air out for as long as possible, and your house will only gradually heat up.
8. Use Portable Fans to Create Convection at Night
You can help the natural cooling process of open windows along with portable fans. Place these in your second-story windows and set them up to blow hot air out. This will help draw cold air in through the first story windows. Because hot air rises, it will create a natural airflow throughout your home.
Pro Tip: Whole house exhaust fans — also known as attic fans — operate on this same principle and are a less-expensive alternative to central air systems, especially in places where summer heat doesn’t necessarily mean hot nights.
9. Change Your Light Bulbs
Sometimes cooling in summer is just as much about small changes as big ones. If you’re still using halogen or incandescent light bulbs, you can lower your energy bills and keep cooler by switching to CFLs or LEDs. These bulbs are far more efficient and don’t waste as much electricity on heat loss, so your A/C won’t be fighting the heat the old bulbs push into your room.
10. Try an Evaporative Cooler
If you live in a place with low humidity, you might be able to skip the air conditioning by using an evaporative cooler instead. These appliances work with just water and a fan. The water evaporates and drops the air temperature instantly, and the fan pushes the newly cool air (and some bonus humidity) into your room. If you live in the desert, this is a win-win choice (See What Are Evaporative Coolers? Here’s Everything You Need To Know)
11. Try a Dehumidifier
On the other hand, if you live in a humid climate with hot, sticky summers, you can try sucking out some of the moisture that’s making you so miserable. When it’s too humid, your body can’t efficiently cool itself by sweating, because your sweat won’t evaporate into the already-saturated air. Drying out your home can help it feel cooler, and you may be able to run your air conditioner less.
For the Dedicated: Cool Your Body, Not Your House
The final cooling frontier? Changing your attitude about how to live through a heat wave by addressing your body heat instead of your home’s temperature.
12. Eat Spicy Food
Ever notice that the cuisine in hot climates is spicy? Having a hot Mexican mole or an intense Indian curry could help you cool down by raising your body temperature and stimulating your circulation. This will make you sweat, and you’ll feel cooler. It’s worth a try if you like your food hot but your skin cool!
13. Ice Your Pulse Points
Run some cool water over your wrists or feet to cool down quickly. These pulse points help regulate your body temperature and are very sensitive, so you can efficiently target them for cooling. You can also try placing an ice pack or a water bottle filled with cold water on other pulse points like your neck and the inside of your elbows and knees for the same effect.
14. Stay Down Low
Because heat rises, you’ll want to spend as much time as you can on the main floor of your house — or even in the basement. If you normally sleep upstairs, try moving your furniture or setting up a futon for lower-level sleeping during a heat wave. Set your thermostat for comfort based on the coolest level of your house, not the hot second or third floors — and stay down there as much as you can.
15. Sleep Alone
If you can convince your partner to leave your side for a few days during the worst heat of the year, you’ll definitely get a better night’s sleep alone. That’s because you’ll be surrounded by cool air on all sides instead of having someone else’s body heat adding to your mattress and blanket temperature. Your partner will probably enjoy the cooler bedtime too, so it could be worth the effort during the hottest days.
If you decide to skip the air conditioning — or turn the thermostat up — to save money, try spending some time outside to feel the worst temperatures for a bit. When you come back indoors, it’s the contrast that will make you feel cooler, even though the actual air temperature inside may be more like 80 instead of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a good mind and body hack if you can avoid those over-chilled offices so you don’t get used to artificially frigid climes.
Pro Tip: Dehydration is your enemy! Even if it no longer feels so hot to you because you purposely got used to it, your body will need help getting the moisture it needs to sweat and stay cool naturally. Drink up!
You can keep your cooling costs down this summer by committing to as many of these cooling ideas as you like — they work best in combination! When you take care to make your cooling as efficient as possible, your home energy bills will definitely go down. The only question left to answer is what you’ll do with all the money you save this summer!
NewAir Portable Evaporative Coolers
- • Bring down the temperature by up to 20 degrees
- • All-natural eco-friendly cooling uses no harmful chemicals
- • Uses about the same electricity as a 100-watt light bulb
NewAir Industrial Fans
- • Ball bearing motor lasts longer than other fans on the market
- • Metal fan blades for powerful airflow
- • Three fan speeds for up to 3,000 CFMs of power