Summer's heat can zap your energy and make your cooling bills soar. But when there's a heat wave, you don't have to just suffer through it. There are ways to maximize your home's comfort without adding unnecessarily to your energy consumption.
Keeping cool when the weather is unforgiving means making smart choices. (Read: Surviving the Heat Wave) Some of those choices are new cooling appliances. But some are just using what you have in a smarter way. Here are a few ways to help beat the heat and survive with your wallet intact:
Whole-House Fans are All About Keeping Cool
A whole-house fan fits in the ceiling, but it's not what you might think of as a ceiling fan. Once installed, it looks like a large, square exhaust fan that's flush with the ceiling. They're often installed in a hallway that's at a central location in the house.
Whole-house fans are extremely powerful, and they can also be noisy. They draw in cooler air and push hot indoor air up through the fan and into the attic, where it can escape back outside. (Read: Baby it's Cold in Here: How to Stay Warm or Cool Inside)
There's a trick to using a whole-house fan successfully. When the air is cooler, such as in the early morning hours, open windows through the house only about an inch. Switch on the fan, and let it work its magic. Once the weather heats up for the day, turn off the fan and close the windows. This helps your air conditioning work more efficiently, and reduces its workload.
Help Stay Cool by Using Appliances After the Sun Goes Down
Need an excuse to put off laundry? During a heat wave, you've got one. Appliances that produce heat, especially clothes dryers, will only add to the humidity and hot temperatures you're trying to escape.
When possible, put off using any appliance that produces a lot of heat until the early morning or evening hours. Even some vacuum cleaners produce some heat, so you can put that off, too.
Keep Blinds Closed to Stay Cooler
Sunlight beating though the windows might look cheerful, but it adds heat to your home and makes your air conditioning system work harder than it has to. Keep blinds closed during a heat wave, and you'll stay more comfortable.
You can also close drapes, and think about using lined drapes for better insulation. Lined drapes are often thought of for helping keep rooms warmer in winter. But when the sun's rays are trying to stream in, the UV-blocking fabric on the back side of heavy drapes will help keep them outside.
Choose Cooler Lighting Options
Incandescent light bulbs produce a lot of heat, but they are becoming a thing of the past. Cooler CFLs and LEDs are a good replacement. They're more energy efficient, too. LEDs outperform most energy-efficient options and they don't contain mercury like CLFs do, so they're a great pick.
If you have any halogen lights in your home, think about giving them a break until the weather also breaks. They produce an enormous amount of heat, which will only be welcome once the weather cools again.
Think Outdoors for Future Ideas to Keep Cool
You can't plant a shade tree today and enjoy its cooling effect tomorrow, but you can plant one today and enjoy it in the years to come. Landscaping can help keep your home cooler when you choose the right trees and shrubs and plant them in the right places.
Shade trees, which have a wide expanse of branches, are great on the west- and south-facing sides of the house, and anywhere you might have a bank of windows where heat pours in. Another great idea is to plant mid-height shrubs around your outdoor air conditioning unit. When the unit is shaded, its workload is lightened. Don't plant them too close, as this can impair air flow to the unit.
A heat wave can happen at any time in the summer, but fall also has its moments of intense temperatures. Keeping cool through these times takes a little creativity and planning ahead. You can take cooler showers to feel more comfortable, and think about cooking outdoors instead of heating up the kitchen. And if you want to skip the clothes dryer's heat altogether, switch to drying laundry on a line outdoors.
Think about where the heat enters your home, and take steps to block it. This might mean UV blocking window film, heavy drapes, shades, blinds, or even awnings. Anything you can do to prevent heat from entering your home, and cut back on producing heat inside your home, will go a long way toward helping you survive a heat wave in a reasonable amount of comfort.
Your typical home center garden department might not agree, but fall is the best time to plant trees. Add a few trees to your landscaping this weekend, and every summer to come will bring you more and more protection from the sun's rays.
Here's a great tip. Donate $10 to the Arbor Day Foundation, and they will ship you 10 trees of your choice just in time for planting season for your area!