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How you can cool your home this summer

June 24, 2015

By Paul Brucker

How cool do most people want to feel in their homes this summer? You might be surprised to know that most people prefer to stay cool in the 73 degree to 79 degree range, according to an air conditioning study.1 But the key is to find a temperature that makes you and your family comfortable. On the other hand, the rule of thumb says each degree that you raise the thermostat will save you 3% to 5% on your air conditioning costs.2 And the average household spends $420 a year to cool its home.3

Here are some tips to stay cool and save money on your air conditioning bill:

  1. Use a programmable thermostat that cools your home just before you usually arrive home, but is set to a higher temperature, say 84%, when no one’s home. You can save 5% to 15% on your air-conditioning bill by raising the temperature when you’re away.4 Despite a myth to the contrary, it’s cheaper to cool down a hot house than it is to keep the house consistently cool. 
  2. Be a fan of fans. Even if you have central air conditioning or some air conditioner boxes in windows, fans really help tackle the heat. Put fans on your home’s top floor and open windows on the lower level. Live in a one-story house? Then, close the windows near your fan and open the windows in the room farthest away from the fan. Also, by pointing box fans out the window, you’ll benefit from them pushing the hot air out. Do you have ceiling fan? Did you know it should be adjusted based on the season? In summer, set the fan to rotate counter-clockwise, at a higher speed and enjoy the breeze. A fun tip? Try placing a pan or bowl full of ice in front of the fan and revel in cooling mist. 
  3. Shoo away the sun. Most of the heat that gets into your house comes directly from the sun shining through your windows and roof. Look to your windows to fend off the sun. Window shades, such as mesh screens, let you see out while they block sunrays (you can remove them in winter). Meanwhile, closing blinds, drapes and curtains on hot days can lower your temperatures by up to 20 degrees and save you 7% on your bill.5 Leafy trees, shrubs and vines in front of windows also help houses stay cool, as do awnings and reflective roof paint.
  4. Let in the night. If the temperature drops at night to a refreshing cool, crack open the windows before you go to bed. Get even cooler by lining up your fans to create a cross breeze. (Just be sure to close the windows again before the sun heats up the house in the morning.)
  5. Replace room air conditioning units if they are old. Any unit older than 10 years old is a candidate for replacement. By installing the newer higher-efficiency ratio units (look for the Energy Star on it), you could cut your air conditioning costs in half.4

Other ideas to beat the heat. Strategies to keep cool at home include hanging out in your basement, sealing any air leaks with caulk, taking showers, using a spritzer to splash yourself with water, consuming iced drinks and using lightweight, breathable cotton for your bed sheets.