Two thirds of households in America have air conditioners, according to the U.S. Department of Energy — and they spend a total of $11 billion each year running them.
Our guess is that most of those households (which may include yours) wouldn’t mind spending a little less to keep their homes cool. Because, as great as it feels to escape the heat of summer, having some extra money in your pocket might feel even better.
Here are five tips to help you beat the heat without having the AC on — and the meter running — all day long:
Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. The Department of Energy says that ventilation is the least expensive and most energy-efficient way to cool your home. One of the best ways to do this is to open windows to create a cross-wise breeze indoors. It’s best to do this in the mornings or evenings when the outside air is coolest. After all, flooding your home with hot afternoon air isn’t going to appease anyone.
Get those fans going. Ceiling fans can provide enough cooling power for you to raise the thermostat a few degrees without noticing the difference. Smaller ones can help as well, but make sure you turn fans off when you’re not around — they cool people, not rooms. Finally, whole-house fans, which bring in air and exhaust it through the attic, can help cool things down even on the hottest days. They should be installed by a professional, though.
- Don’t unwittingly turn the ‘heat’ on. Are you making something in your oven? Cooking something on the stove? You’re also adding heat to your house. Even clothes dryers and dishwashers can create unwanted warmth, so use those appliances in the morning or evening. When it’s time to cook, try grilling outside — or eating more cold foods. They can help lower your internal body temperature.
- Remember the little things — they add up. Keep your curtains closed on the sunny side of your home. Turn off lights whenever you can, because they produce heat. And, if it’s warmer outside than inside, keep your windows closed.
- Bigger projects can have big benefits, too. Make sure your attic and walls are insulated well, with cracks and openings sealed so warm air doesn’t leak into your home. Check your ducts, too. Air loss through ducts can account for as much as 30 percent of a cooling system’s energy consumption, according to the Department of Energy. And, if you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, installing and setting one can help you save up to 10 percent on heating and cooling costs, says the Department of Energy.
If you’re already following all of these tips and you’re still too hot, here are a couple more options: Put on a cool, damp shirt or apply a cold pack (a sandwich bag of ice cubes or a bag of frozen vegetables inside a towel work well) to your forehead and wrists.
Of course, you could just bite the bullet and turn the AC back on. We won’t judge — we promise. Just be sure you’ve replaced the air filter and serviced your unit so it’s running efficiently.