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Staying Cool and Cutting Costs: Ways to Beat the Heat

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  by Kimberly Blackford

As summer settles in and the sunshine blazes, many homeowners’ thoughts turn to warm evenings filled with outdoor grilling, lounging on the patio, and enjoying the company of guests from near and far.

The last thing on their mind is the impending utilities bill that serves as a reminder of how harsh summer can really be. With the current economy, every homeowner is looking for ways to cut back without losing their cool. Thankfully, a few simple steps can keep your home running without draining the wallet!

  • Check it out: When was the last time your HVAC system was inspected? It is a good idea to have the A/C and ductwork system inspected for efficiency. A leaky system wastes more energy than it uses! This is also a waste of your finances.

  • Clean it up: Make it a priority to clean the A/C filter monthly. A dirty filter overtaxes the unit and can cause long-term damage. Little filters can cause big problems!

  • Close it down: How often is that spare bedroom used? What about the home office? Evaluate the spaces in your home and close any vents in rarely used rooms. This directs cool air to the most often used spaces and allows the A/C to cool those spaces more efficiently. Also, keep the doors from unused rooms closed so the cool air does not try to escape the main living spaces!

  • Block it out: Window treatments such as blinds and drapes can drop a room temperature by as much as 10 degrees if closed against direct sunlight. While it is nice to have natural light filling a home, it can be expensive to keep those rooms cool. Remember to draw the drapes on west facing windows in the late afternoon. While it may be cooling off outside, that sunlight is still powerfully warm.

  • Seal it tight: Attics, doors, and windows are often the biggest culprits of letting warm air in. If you noticed a draft in the winter months, those same spots are letting the summer heat steal into your home. Double check for leaks and proper insulation in these locations. Remember to close the fireplace damper so cool air is not escaping.

  • Time it right: Did you know it is most energy efficient to run large appliances like dishwashers and clothes dryers late at night? However, in the hotter or sunnier regions, it may be even more beneficial to air dry some clothing. Check out your local restrictions on outdoor clotheslines and take advantage of nature's ability to help with the wash! Also try to keep most cooking, especially baking, to the early or late hours. The heat and moisture these appliances produce can make the inside of a home uncomfortable and will take the A/C a long time to overcome.

  • Set it & forget it: Programmable thermostats are the best things to happen to economical homeowners. Ranging from the inexpensive to multi-functional brands, programmable thermostats can allow homeowners to set their A/C to run at different temperatures throughout the day. This is especially helpful if no one is home during the day and there is little reason to have the A/C running. Programmable thermostats can be set high for working hours and switch to a lower temp just before the first family members arrive home. A warm home will be cooled down within 15 minutes and will be more cost effective than keeping the empty home cool all day long.

  • Bonus Installs: If you still have not made the switch from incandescent lightbulbs to CFLs, now may be the best time. CFLs produce less heat than an incandescent bulb and are more energy efficient. Some homeowners have hesitations regarding the disposal of CFLs. However, take the time to contact local waste and recycling services. They will provide you with the proper CFL disposal information so you too can jump on the resource saving bandwagon.

    Another great installation to look into is ceiling fans for each room. A ceiling fan can lower the room's temperature by 10 degrees. Be certain that the ceiling fan is blowing in the counterclockwise direction for summer. (The air should be blowing down.)

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These simple steps to keeping your home affordably cool are easy to overlook with the excitement that summer seems to bring. Take a few minutes to tackle these tasks and you can truly appreciate those warm outdoor nights before returning to the cool of your home.

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