Beat the Heat

We have summer lovin’ for barbecues and vacations, but not so much for the heat. In the throes of summer it’s tempting to crank the air conditioner and turn your home into an icebox, but thankfully there are countless, easy ways to cool your home this summer that don’t involve racking up an energy bill.

This may seem overly simple and obvious, but the most effective way to block the sun's rays is to close the blinds and or invest in curtains or shades, preferably blackout ones, for windows that receive direct sunlight, most notably, windows that face west. Windows allow up to 30% of heat from the outside in. Closed blinds can lower the indoor temperature by up to 20 degrees and decrease your electric bill by 7%. For rooms on lower floors, turn the blinds upwards so that the sun’s heat cannot sneak through as easily. Even closing your blinds and shades for at least the sunniest part of the day, typically around 3p.m., will make a world’s difference. Awnings, plants or trees in front of windows outside will also minimize the sun’s heat; trees in full bloom can block 70% of solar radiation.

Beyond curtains and blinds, tinting windows, topping up your ceiling insulation and installing heat-reducing window films and energy efficient windows (and doors) will help control the indoor air temperature and prevent the sun’s heat from penetrating. If replacing your windows and doors is not feasible, use weather stripping or foam insulation as it creates an air barrier that will keep the cold air inside and the summer heat out, maintaining a constant and comfortable temperature. You can even create your own cooling pressure current with your windows. On the downwind side of your house open the top section of windows and on the upwind side open the bottom section. Use a fan out one window to push out the hot air and in another window hang a damp sheet to produce a chill breeze. 

Utilize any and all fans in your arsenal to complement other cooling methods and fight the heat. Rotate ceiling fans counterclockwise at a high speed to generate a cool downward airflow towards the floor. A clockwise direction pulls cold air up, warming the space. Take advantage of vents and exhaust fans in humid, steamy spaces such as bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens to remove the built-up moisture. The vents suck the hot air outside and in turn cool the house down. Fans can be set up strategically to create a cross breeze so cool air continually flows. Want extra cool air? Place a bowl of ice or other cold object in front of a fan so when the fan blows the air will be extra chilled.

Other basic hacks to beat the heat include closing and sealing gaps around doors, windows and vents in rooms that don’t receive as much traffic so that cool air can be redirected more effortlessly to necessary rooms. Commonly used rooms should have the doors open so the air can circulate freely. However, at night if not too warm, open up windows and doors so the crisp night air can cool the home naturally. Use the heat build-up inside as an excuse to cook and grill outside-an oven cooking at 350 degrees inside an already warm space is not ideal. Switch to energy-saving light bulbs since incandescent light bulbs produce a lot of heat. 

When it comes to your thermostat, keep the temperature as high as you can manage to reduce costs, and consider investing in a programmable thermostat that cools your home only when needed. As always, maintain your AC unit by checking the air filters and AC vents, replacing broken fan belts and ensuring there are no strange noises coming from your system as it should run relatively quietly. As a last resort, a portable air conditioner is never a bad idea.