If the summer heat is turning your house into an oven and causing the air conditioning bill to go through the roof, here are a few quick and affordable tips to help you keep cool and save energy.

Close Blinds and Curtains

  • Inexpensive mini blinds or curtains can work wonders for reducing the sunlight and heat streaming in through your windows! At my house, installing inexpensive blinds on the south-facing windows completely changed the temperature in that part of the house.
  • Make sure blinds or curtains are white on the side facing the outside. Solar sun screens and window film are other options that can greatly reduce the heat coming through windows.

Install Cool Lighting

  • Incandescent light bulbs can significantly heat up a room. Replace standard bulbs with high-efficiency, low-heat CFL (compact fluorescent lights) or LED (light emitting diodes) bulbs, and turn off lights when not needed.

Cook Wisely

  • Eat cold meals, cook outside on the grill, or use the microwave for cooking when possible to minimize heat indoors.
  • When you do cook indoors:
    • Cover pots to minimize indoor humidity.
    • Use range hood or microwave vent fan to vent hot air outside.
    • Turn oven off a few minutes before food is cooked to reduce oven heat.
    • Check the oven by turning on the light and looking through the glass, rather than opening the oven door.

Repair Windows and Doors

  • Windows and doors are a major source of heat gain in the house, so keep windows closed and locked and doors tightly closed to prevent cool air from escaping. Older single pane windows and doors without proper weather stripping are the worst culprits.
  • If you can’t replace your windows and doors with more energy efficient models, repair any gaps in or replace weather stripping around and under windows and doors. Also, don’t open windows at night unless the temperature drops to the mid-20s C or lower.

Use Fans for Cooling

  • A ceiling fan or portable fan uses much less energy than an air conditioner, but they’re only effective when you’re in the room to feel the cooling, so turn them off when you leave.
  • Run ceiling fans in a counterclockwise direction (when looking up) when you’re in the room to help keep you cool through evaporation. This will allow you to set the thermostat on your air conditioner higher and save energy.

Clean Air Conditioner Filters

  • While your AC system is cranking away, the filter is getting more use than usual. By changing the AC air filter regularly during the highest use months allows air to flow easily through your HVAC system, making it run more efficiently and saving energy.

Put Off Chores

  • You heard me! Don’t run the dishwasher, clothes washer/dryer, or other appliances during the heat of the day, since these machines generate heat and humidity that will be hard to overcome. Put these chores off until evening when possible.
  • When cleaning clothes:
    • Wash clothes in cold water.
    • Run the washer or dryer only if you have a full load.
    • Choose the shortest wash cycle that gets the job done.
    • Clean dryer vent pipe and lint screen regularly to lower drying time.
    • Dry clothes outside on a clothesline when possible.

Use Less Hot Water

  • Turn your hot water heater down to a lower temperature setting so it will run less and produce less heat.
  • Hot showers create a lot of excess heat and humidity in the house, so:
  • Take shorter showers to reduce humidity and heat.
  • Take cool – rather than hot – showers.
  • Run the bathroom exhaust fan when showering or bathing, and keep it running for 20 minutes afterward, to remove excess heat and humidity.

Plan Ahead

  • Long term strategies to keep your house cooler include:
    • Plant shade trees on the south and west sides of the house.
    • Install insulated glass windows with low-E coating or storm windows.
    • Add awnings over sunny windows.
    • Install additional attic insulation
    • Replace existing roof with cool shingles or light-colored roofing

These are only a few of the many strategies for keeping your house cool in the summer. Put some of these home improvements to your to-do list for relief in years to come.