Reduce Cooling Costs

Written by Gary Foreman

It’s that time of year again when the temperatures rise and shade is a wonderful relief. What can you do to reduce those cooling bills?

Experts say that the main source of heat build-up in your home is sunlight being absorbed through the roof and walls. A secondary source is appliances generating heat inside your home.

We’ll begin by investigating ‘passive cooling’. That’s using natural methods to reduce the amount of heat in your house.

Heating and your roof

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy about a third of the heat in your home enters through the roof. Even white colored shingles absorb 70% of the solar radiation that hits them.

  • One way to increase reflection is to use a roof coating. There are products for different types of roofs. You can find them at your local home center.
  • If your home was constructed when insulation wasn’t a major consideration, you’ll want to make sure there’s enough insulation in the attic. Fortunately, insulation is not that expensive. And adding it is a simple do-it-yourself project that doesn’t require special tools or training.
  • Make sure that the attic has enough ventilation. Hot air rises. Vents in the eaves will allow cooler air to enter. A ridge vent or attic fan will allow the hotter air to escape. Proper attic ventilation can reduce cooling costs by 10%.
  • Homes with darker colors will absorb more heat. Whether your are choosing new shingles or an exterior paint you’ll want to consider lighter hues.

Window heating

Trees, especially on the south and west, can block enough sunlight to reduce your bills by 30%. Unfortunately, it takes time to grow shade trees. So you’ll need patience.In the meantime, use shade to cool your house by:

  • keeping the drapes closed during daylight hours
  • using awnings to block sunlight.
  • adding reflective window tint will pay for itself in a short time.

Speaking of windows, make sure that windows and doors are properly sealed. Also pipes or anything else that enters through the walls. Caulking is inexpensive and pays big dividends.

Newer windows are much more energy efficient. Unfortunately, the energy saved will not pay for new windows in the short term.

Air conditioner maintenance

Once you have blocked and reflected as much sun as possible, give her air conditioner a check-up. A professional should service the unit each spring. Contact your local electric company. They often have special deals or even pay for the inspection. After inspecting the unit

  • Check for any duct leaks. No sense filling the attic or basement with cool air.
  • Consider insulating the ducts.
  • Check the a/c compressor outside. It needs room to breathe. The heat removed from your home is exhausted there. Don’t trap it with overgrown bushes.Of course all shrubbery isn’t bad. Your a/c unit runs cooler if it’s in the shade. So plant bushes close enough to provide shade, but far enough away so that the air flow isn’t blocked.
  • Clean or replace dirty a/c filters monthly. This simple step will improve efficiency dramatically.

Thermostats should be set at 78 degrees. A six degree higher setting will reduce your cooling costs by 20%.

Make maximum use of fans. Circulating air will feel 2 degrees colder than it really is. If ceiling fans aren’t practical you can pick up inexpensive room fans.

Home makeover

You may also want to consider a minor room make-over for the summer. Replacing warm colors (browns and reds) with cooler colors (blues and greens) sets a psychological tone. Just changing throw pillows could be enough to encourage some cool thoughts.

In drier climates like the southwest, you might want to check out an evaporative cooler. It’s a little like a humidifier used for cooling. Their operating costs are about one fifth of an air conditioner’s.

Finally, avoid generating heat inside your home. Try to move cooking outdoors, or use a crockpot and the microwave. Use the ‘air dry’ setting on your dishwasher. Any heat that’s generated must be removed by your air conditioner. You’ll pay once to create the heat and then again to remove it.

One Response to “Reduce Cooling Costs”

  • Dave says:

    It’s amazing how few people use their AC to maximum efficiency. With a few simple tricks like this, you can save a ton of money on your bills. Great post!

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