Baby, it's hot outside... So much so, school administrators are sending our "babies" home for the day!! So, we're all a tad hot under the collar... But we don't have to be. In the mood to cool down? Consider these 10 tips to help beat the heat!
#1: Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat will let you preset temperatures for different times of the day, so air-conditioning is working only when you're home. The least expensive thermostat models let you set four cycles that, unless manually overridden, repeat every day. Higher-priced models allow you to create settings for each weekday and for each weekend day.
Cost: $50 to $200, depending on style preference
Benefit: Up to 20% off your cooling bill
#2: Set the Digital Higher
If you have central air, set your thermostat a few degrees higher than normal. You'll save 5% to 8% on cooling costs with each degree above that mark. For a typical household, setting the thermostat at 75 degrees saves 5% to 10%; Raising it to 80 degrees can save as much as 35% to 55%.
When you leave home for more than an hour, set the thermostat higher than when you're at home. Reset it upon your return, and the room will cool down in about 15 minutes. The system will use less energy during the cool-down period than if you had left it running at a lower setting while you were out!
Benefit: 15% to 20% or more off your cooling bill
#3: Use a Fan
A fan, which costs two to five cents per hour to operate, will make a room feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler. A fan also works well in tandem with an air conditioner because the dehumidifying action of the air conditioner provides drier air that the fan can then move around.
In frequently used rooms, install a ceiling fan. You'll save the most money by running the fan only when you're in the room. A motion-detector switch [around $20], which turns the fan on when you enter a room and off when the room is empty, is a good addition. However, if you have pets that move in and out of the room, make sure the switch can be turned off manually. Otherwise, your pets can cause the fan to run while you're away!
Cost: Floor fans cost around $20; Ceiling fans range from $40 to $300 or more
Benefit: Ceiling fans can decrease your cooling bill by up to 15%
#4: Practice "Texas Cool"
"Texas Cool" is a morning and evening routine that takes advantage of cool outdoor temperatures at night and keeps the heat at bay as much as possible during daylight hours. It's very simple to do: At night when the temperature drops, open the windows and bring in cool air with window fans or a whole-house fan. As soon as the sun comes up or the air starts to heat up, shut the windows and shades and keep the doors closed.
Cost: $0 [plus minimal fan use]
Benefit: 20 to 50 percent off your cooling bill
#5: Use Sunblockers
As much as 20% of summer heat enters the house as sunlight shining through windows. To cut "solar gain," add curtains or blinds to rooms that get direct sun and draw them in daylight hours. With the shades drawn, a well-insulated house will gain only 1 degree per hour when outdoor temperatures are above 85 degrees.
Pay special attention to west-facing rooms late in the day. Shades and blinds to consider include roller shades [the least expensive option], Venetian-type micro-blinds, reflective curtains and insulated curtains [the most expensive, at $100 per window]. Two exterior options are to install awnings or plant shade trees.
Cost: $8 to $100 per window
Benefit: Up to 20% of your cooling bill
#6: Cook Smart
Any appliance that generates heat will add to your cooling load. An oven baking cookies can easily raise the room temperature 10 degrees, which in turn jacks up overall cooling costs 2% to 5%. Save cooking [especially baking] for cooler hours, or cook outdoors on your grill. It is also a good idea to run the dishwasher and clothes dryer at night.
Benefit: 2% to 5% off your cooling costs
#7: Use Cooler Lighting
Incandescent bulbs don't contribute as much heat as unshaded windows, but they do add heat to a house and can raise the perceived temperature, sending you to the thermostat to seek relief. To reduce this hot-light effect and save lighting costs year-round, replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs. They use about 75% less energy and emit 90% less heat.
Cost: $5 to $10 per bulb
Benefit: As much as 90% off your lighting costs - as well as cooling savings
#8: Snug Up The Ducts
Leaky ducts can cut into air conditioning efficiency. Ductwork must be balanced between the supply and return sides of the system in order for it to work safely and efficiently, so making a repair in one section can cause a problem in another. Leak-prone areas include the return plenum; Where branch ducts meet the trunk line; And where ducts attach to outlets.
Unless the duct repairs are minor, it's wise to leave them to a HVAC pro. While the contractor is on site checking your ducts, have him tune up the air conditioning unit by cleaning filters, unplugging coils, unblocking drains and lubing the fan.
Cost: Around $100 to start for a service call
Benefit: Up to 40% off your cooling bill
#9: Seal Air Leaks
The places where cold air infiltrates in winter are routes for hot air in summer. And what's worse, hot air is often accompanied by high humidity, making you even more uncomfortable. Armed with a flashlight, silicone caulk and a couple cans of expanding foam insulation, hunt down and seal all leaks. Concentrate on the attic, basement and crawl space, paying close attention to anything that passes through a ceiling or wall, such as ductwork, electrical or plumbing conduits and kitchen and bath vents. Other common leaky spots are around windows and doors. If you can rattle a window, it's leaking. Seal it with weather stripping.
Cost: $6 to $25
Benefit: Up to 10% off your cooling bill
#10: Defeat Attic Heat
The temperature in your attic can reach 125 degrees on a hot summer day, a situation that, if left unchecked, can drive up cooling costs by as much as 40%. If your attic has less than R-22 insulation — 7 inches of fiberglass or rock wool, or 6 inches of cellulose — you should add more.
Before insulating, seal around recessed lights, vents, and plumbing and lay down a 6-mil polyethylene vapor barrier. When insulating, place boards across the tops of the joists to walk on, and as you insulate, don't cover or pack insulation around a bare stove pipe, electrical fixtures, or any other equipment that produces heat, unless the fixture is labeled as suitable for direct contact with insulation. Otherwise, you'll risk fire.
Also make sure your attic is ventilated. Gable vents (around $25 each, plus $75 per vent for labor) can lower attic temperatures about 10 degrees; a ridge-and-soffit ventilation system (an extra $200 during re-roofing) will reduce attic temperature to around 100 degrees.
When re-roofing, use white or pale-gray shingles instead of dark ones. These will keep your attic cooler than dark shingles.
Cost: approximately $25 each for gable-end vents; around $200 for ridge-and-soffit ventilation in a new roof
Benefit: Longer shingle life, and up to 20% off your cooling bill
Looking for assistance on some of the tips listed above? Grady Mechanical specializes in home cooling and heating solutions that meet your individual needs. Don't go it alone... Our licensed technicians can help lower your heat level - and help you save money on cooling costs, as well!
We're Here To Help!
Grady Mechanical LLC
1083 Farmington Avenue
Berlin, CT 06037
PS: Thanks to our friends over at This Old House for the advice!
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