When the terms “heat wave” and “extreme heat” find their way into the headlines on a daily basis, it’s not surprising to see many families looking for ways to prevent high(er) electric bills while maximizing their air conditioners. To help give you and your air conditioner some relief, we wanted to share five ways to break up the heat this summer.
Shade the AC Unit and Add Curb Appeal
Looking to add a honey-do item that improves curb appeal while simultaneously lowering the energy bill? Look to nature to break up the summer heat. The air conditioning system can consume about half the home’s energy; it’s important to take steps to reduce the amount of heat penetrating the roof, walls of the home and the outdoor AC unit.
While nature may be part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. Specifically, deciduous trees can be planted on the east and west sides of the home to allow their broad leaves to shade the home and cooling equipment. Since deciduous plants shed their leaves annually, they won’t block wanted heat during the winter months. Shrubs planted around AC units can also absorb heat radiating and bouncing off it. However, make sure any plant around the air conditioner is at least two feet away in all directions. While foliage can help with the heat, it shouldn’t be so close that it blocks air flow or clogs the unit with falling leaves.
Maximize Ceiling and Stand-Alone Fans
When a heat-index crawls upwards of 100 degrees F, many homeowners head straight for the ceiling fan switch . . . and those fans remain on for the duration of summer. To add insult to (electric bill) injury, portable fans can end up haphazardly placed around rooms to cool off a space. Since fans just circulate the air without actively cooling a room, homeowners can make a few adjustments to maximize their fans and cool down.
During the coolest part of the day when blinds are open, keeping ceiling fans throughout the house turned on will help circulate and swap out the air. However, when that’s not an option, ceiling fans should only be on when the room is occupied. Ceiling fans help increase evaporation from the skin to help you feel cooler, not by lowering the room temperature. The same idea works for stand-alone/portable fans. When placed directly in front of a person, fans create the cooling-effect as intended. Make sure the fan isn’t placed on the opposite side of the room from the person trying to cool off. Keep it near.
Use Window Treatments to Reduce Heat Gain
Windows help open up a room, bring in natural lighting and unfortunately allow unwanted heat to raise the thermostat’s temperature. Since the amount of heat gained through the windows can be significant, take this opportunity to dress up the room and lower the next electric bill. When replacing the windows with more efficient ones isn’t in the budget, consider investing in the right choice of shades or curtains (we have a slew of design ideas “curtainspiration”).
Bypass sheer window treatments and seek out thicker materials. Since dark colors absorb heat, curtains with light-colored backing are ideal. Honeycombed shaped shades that appear to have side pockets or cells are also great for blocking heat. The more cells there are in the shade, the more energy efficient it becomes. The distance a shade is from the window also impacts how much heat is trapped between the window covering and window pane. For instance, many curtains and blinds that are too close to the window can trap heat, so adjusting the curtains to about two inches above or below the window would allow for optimal ventilation and prevent damage to the window pane.
Keep Appliances Away from the Thermostat
Thermostats tell an air conditioner when to turn on and cool the home to a desired temperature and when to turn off. While the thermostat may be the brain of the operation, it can be easily duped into believing a room is warmer than its actual temperature and cause the air conditioner to turn on more often than needed – or wanted. All it takes is a TV, lamp or other appliance being placed near it. Even a minimal about of heat produced by electronic devices can wreak havoc on the thermostat’s activation process, so simply moving these devices to a new location can remedy this problem.
Enjoy Fruit that Helps Beat the Heat
Tips abound to help stay cool during extreme heat, from wearing light colored clothes and staying in the shade to drinking plenty of water. So when drinking glass after glass of water starts to feel like a chore, head out to the local farmer’s market or grocery store and pick up some fruit that will keep you cool and refreshed.
Enjoying cold fruit helps the body’s internal temperature lower (just like a bowl of hot soup warms you up on a cold winter day), but fruits like watermelon, peaches, strawberries and honeydews also provide a rich source of Vitamin C… and water! A word of caution: the kids may need to take a cool shower to wash off the sticky goodness that runs down their arms after enjoying that watermelon. Another excellent way to cool down.