Simple changes such as moving lamps away from thermostats
can save you hundreds of dollars. Here are more money --
and energy -- saving tips.
By MSN Money staff
Sure, go ahead and turn that
thermostat up to 80. You'll be sweaty and still
shelling out a bundle -- unless you take other steps to
make summer heat more bearable and reduce stress on your
Open windows and use portable or ceiling fans instead
of operating your air conditioner. Even mild air movement
of 1 mph can make you feel three or four degrees cooler.
Make sure your ceiling fan is turned for summer -- you
should feel the air blown downward.
Most of these cost little or nothing. Thank the Department
of Energy's Energy Savers program, which provides most of
these tips (and more) on its own
Get the most from your air
Use a fan with your window air conditioner to spread
the cool air through your home.
Without blocking air flow, shade your outside
compressor. Change air filters monthly during the summer.
Use a programmable thermostat with your air
conditioner to adjust the setting at night or when no one
Don't place lamps or TVs near your air conditioning
thermostat. The heat from these appliances will cause the
air conditioner to run longer.
Consider installing a whole house fan or evaporative
cooler (a "swamp cooler") if appropriate for your climate.
Attics trap fierce amounts of heat; a well-placed and
-sized whole-house fan pulls air through open windows on
the bottom floors and exhausts it through the roof,
lowering the inside temperature and reducing energy use by
as much as third compared with an air conditioner. Cost is
between $150 and $400. An evaporative cooler pulls air
over pads soaked in cold water and uses a quarter the
energy of refrigerated air, but they're useful only in
low-humidity areas. Cost is $200 to $600.
Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to
reflect heat away from the house. Close curtains on south-
and west-facing windows during the day.
Install awnings on south-facing windows. Because of
the angle of the sun, trees, a trellis, or a fence will
best shade west-facing windows. Apply sun-control or other
reflective films on south-facing windows.
Landscaping for a cooler house
Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units,
but not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade
uses less electricity.
Grown on trellises, vines such as ivy or grapevines
can shade windows or the whole side of a house.
Avoid landscaping with lots of unshaded rock, cement,
or asphalt on the south or west sides because it increases
the temperature around the house and radiates heat to the
house after the sun has set.
Deciduous trees planted on the south and west sides
will keep your house cool in the summer. Just three trees,
properly placed around a house, can save between $100 and
$250 annually in cooling and heating costs. Daytime air
temperatures can be 3 degrees to 6 degrees cooler in
Little things mean a lot
Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents;
they produce the same light but use a fifth the energy and
Air-dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher's
Use a microwave oven instead of a conventional
electric range or oven.
Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
Plug home electronics, such as TVs and VCRs, into
power strips and turn power strips off when equipment is
not in use.
Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater; 115° is
comfortable for most uses.
Take showers instead of baths to reduce hot water use.
Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
Don't air-condition the whole
Caulking and weatherstripping will keep cool air in
during the summer.
If you see holes or separated joints in your ducts,
hire a professional to repair them.
Add insulation around air conditioning ducts when they
are located in unconditioned spaces such as attics, crawl
spaces, and garages; do the same for whole-house fans
where they open to the exterior or to the attic.
Check to see that your fireplace damper is tightly
More costly but effective cooling measures are available
as your home undergoes normal upgrades and repairs.
A 10-year-old air conditioner, for example, is only
half as efficient as a new one. A quick check of your air
conditioner's efficiency can help you decide whether to
call in a service professional. Use a household
thermometer to measure the temperature of the discharge
air from the register and the temperature of the return
air at the return-air grill. (Keep the thermometer in
place for five minutes to get a steady temperature.) The
difference should be from 14 to 20 degrees, experts say.
An air conditioner that's not cooling to those levels
could be low on refrigerant or have leaks. A unit cooling
more than 20 degrees could have a severe blockage.
Using light shingles on a new roof can cut the amount
of heat the house absorbs. Repainting in a light color,
especially south- and west-facing exterior areas, helps as
Upgraded insulation in the attic and double-paned
windows all around, complete with tinting to reflect
sunlight, are good ideas, too
And a bonus--#26
Sometimes it is just too hot to cool the house down. On
these days go to the mall and sit or walk around. Do
some people watching. Some of them can be quite
interesting. In fact--downright funny. Go to the senior
center. Visit a friend with air conditioning. In other
words---let someone else cool you today.
9 Cooling Tips from Southern California Edison, and
Senior Utility Tips
for many more suggestions