Home hacks: 7 tips to stay cool and give your air conditioner a break

When the temperature spikes, many of us crank up the air conditioner without a second thought … until the electricity bill arrives. The good news is that many of your home’s standard energy efficient features can help you stay cool—cheaply—by aiding ventilation and preventing unnecessary heating.

So give your air conditioner a break this summer, and try out one or more of these energy saving tips.

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1. Get more out of your double-hung windows

Double hung windows—the kind that open at both the top and bottom—don’t just look nice. They’re designed to boost ventilation and energy conservation. Open the lower sashes on side of the house facing the breeze, and the upper sashes on the side away from the breeze. This will bring in cool air, while forcing warm, stale air to rise and exit.

2. Set your ceiling fans correctly

Ceiling fans are made to operate differently based on the season. Look for the switch that changes the spin direction—you’ll find it on the fan’s body, and it might have a pull chain. Set the fan to spin counterclockwise in the summer to blow air downward and create a breeze. Set it to clockwise in the winter to help circulate the warm air near the ceiling.

3. Circulate the air in your basement

Here’s an energy saving tip to help you move some of that cool air sitting in your basement into other areas of the house. To start, open one window in the basement. Then open one window on the top floor, as far as possible from the basement, and set a fan in that window blowing out. Make sure all other windows are shut, and open all the interior doors. This will create a flow that draws the air out of the basement, circulates it throughout the house, and forces warm air out the open top-floor window.

4. Switch your thermostat to the “on” mode

Your thermostat has an “on” and “auto” setting for your air conditioner’s fan. The “on” setting will run the fan continuously, regardless of whether the air conditioner is cooling the air. The benefit of “on” is that it can help circulate air sitting in cooler areas of the house. Experts, including our friends at Nest, recommend using “on” for limited periods to prevent drawing moisture back into the house and unnecessarily running a 300-500 watt appliance.

5. Replace incandescent light bulbs

Not only do CFLs and LEDs conserve more energy than standard incandescent bulbs, they give off less heat. One study measured an incandescent bulb surface at 327 degrees Fahrenheit—heat that’s radiated into the room—compared to 167 degrees for a CFL and 107 degrees for an LED.

6. Run your whole-house fan

When installed and used properly, a whole-house fan can help cool your home and reduce reliance on air conditioning. After the sun goes down and the outdoor temperature cools, open your windows and run the fan. It’ll draw in cool air and push out warm air through vents in the attic. When the house has cooled, shut off the fan and close the windows to keep that cool air in.

7. Put your window treatments to work

Your window treatments are another ally in managing your home’s temperature. Close interior drapes and blinds during the day. To get some natural light benefit, set horizontal slats to redirect sunlight to the ceiling, where it’s diffused without heat or glare. If you have retractable exterior awnings, make sure you lower them in the summer.

Staying cool in your home doesn’t have to mean putting your air conditioner through its paces. With a little know-how, you can get a lot of cooling benefit from your home’s energy efficient features.

For more information on how to make your home more energy efficient, click here.

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