We’ve had some hot weather here lately. If there’s one thing I hate about summer, it’s what the hot weather does to my power bill. Using the air conditioner, even as little as I use it, gets so expensive. I set it to about 81 degrees F, so it’s not like I’m trying to keep the house cold. It still adds up too fast. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to cool yourself and your house that don’t involve using the air conditioner.
The more rooms that have a ceiling fan in a house, the more I like it. My home office has one, and it is such a help, especially since I’m on the far side of the house from the air conditioner and only get a little of it when it does run. Moving air isn’t actually cooler, but it feels cooler, and that makes a warmer house much pleasanter.
Windows are one of the big ways that heat gets into your house. Double panes help, but there’s still more you can do. First and foremost, keep your sun facing windows covered during the day to minimize the heat that comes in through them.
Look for window treatments that block sunlight. White is a good color to have on the outside, as it reflects a lot of heat. Anything that insulates the window or is considered to be light blocking is good. We have thermal shades in some rooms, and not only do they block the sun in the morning (great for sleeping in!), they keep the room cooler.
If you can’t afford to get new window treatments, you can use cardboard in the windows if you don’t mind ugly. It blocks a lot of heat. Another inexpensive alternative is to buy a Mylar emergency blanket and cut it up to fit your windows. Use painter’s tape to hold it up so the tape isn’t too hard to remove later. Mylar is wonderful at blocking heat. It doesn’t look nice, but if you put it up carefully you may be able to open your windows with the Mylar still on when the evening cools off.
If you can spend a little more, there are insulating films that attach to the window. They look much neater than cardboard or Mylar sheets taped to the window.
Solar screens are another option. They don’t block your view too much, but they keep a lot of heat out. This is something we’re considering as some of our windows need new screens anyhow.
Whole House Fan
We have a whole house fan, which is quite a help in cooling the house in the evening after the outdoor air is cool enough. Shut down the air conditioner if you have one, open a bunch of windows and turn on the the whole house fan to pull in cooler air and blow out the heat of the day from your house. It’s not as fast as an air conditioner, and some are pretty noisy (like ours), but it’s cheaper to run.
Use Ice And A Fan
For cooling a small area, place a bowl of ice in front of a fan. The fan will blow the cooled air around the room. Just make sure it’s somewhere that the melting ice won’t cause any problems.
Enjoy Cool Treats
Start out by drinking cold water throughout the day. I keep an insulated drink bottle full of ice water at my desk. It’s the healthiest choice and it feels good to have a cold drink right there.
You can have more fun with cool treats too. Make fruit and vegetable smoothies. Have popsicles. Ice cream. Just don’t overdo the stuff that isn’t good for you.
Use A Cool Cloth
A cool cloth on your neck will help keep the rest of you cool. Dampen a washcloth and drape it across the back of your neck.
Take A Quick, Cool Shower
A quick, cool shower will help you feel much cooler. This can be a good idea right before bed. If you don’t mind damp sheets, don’t dry off completely, and they’ll feel cooler on you.
Run Through The Sprinklers
This might be more for the kids than for you, but a quick run through the sprinklers will get you active and cooler. Make sure you use sunscreen if you’re going to be out for more than a short time.
Open The House Up At Night
Now obviously, this depends on the safety of the area you live in and how cool it gets at night. If possible, open up your windows at night and leave them open to let the cool night air in and the heat out of your house. We’ve had warm nights where this still doesn’t help, but most nights it’s a good idea.
Use Your Barbecue
Cooking in your home will make it warmer. If it’s not so hot that you just can’t bear the thought of going outside, fire up the barbecue to cook meals. I love using a propane grill for this, since it doesn’t take long to heat up properly.
This is a long term solution, and probably won’t help you this year or even next. Plant shade trees in your yard, with a focus on blocking the worst of the afternoon sunlight on your house. You don’t want the tree planted too close to your home, or the roots may damage your foundation, but you do want it close enough to give shade.
Put Up An Awning
An awning over the windows that get the most sunlight in your house can keep things cooler. It’s a bit of an expense, but it can be worthwhile.