As springtime starts winding down, I often wonder when the inevitable blast of summer heat will arrive. Recently, I got an unequivocal answer!
Since the heat is now on, I think that now is the time to share some tips to stay cool and save money this season. Generally, two key elements for beating high temperatures include lowering an AC's load and improving AC efficiency. Specifically, some things you can do include:
• Cold drinks: As an initial point, sometimes changing yourself instead of your environment is the best place to start. In addition to being simple, keeping your core as cool as possible helps more than you might think. By drinking a lot of cold drinks, you can keep your comfort without lowering the thermostat.
• Air filtration: The cleaner the air, the cooler the house. Although it may not be visible, the air contains many microscopic particles. In addition to conditioning the air, your AC uses substantial energy to cool these suspended solids. By clearing the air, you are giving your AC less to do. If you have a central heat and air system that uses a blower, you have a filter that needs periodic replacement. First, check your filter every 3 months and replace as needed. Second, don't skimp on filter quality. When you factor in easier breathing, cooler surroundings, and reduced energy loads, high quality air filters are money well spent. 3M's Filtrete is one reputable brand. Although they can be a little pricey, I am partial to purple series.
• Cooking: Use the microwave as much as possible since it generates less heat than electric stoves. Even better, cook outside. For example, my wife takes the crock pot outside during summer and plugs it into an outdoor receptacle (make sure the weather is favorable when you do this). Before discounting this idea due to weather, I encourage you to actually try it. I have done this in west Texas for many years and avoided the dirt and dust every time.
• Clothes drying: No matter how well sealed a dryer duct is, some hot air escapes and causes your AC to work harder. By hanging your clothes outside, you also avoid using the energy required to dry your clothes. Before protesting about wind and dust, remember that west Texans were hanging their clothes outside for a long time before dryers were ever available.
• Lighting: Although turning lights off when you aren’t using them is always a good idea, it is helpful in summer since lights can emit a fair amount of heat, especially if they aren’t LED lights. In addition, with heat generation ranging from 100 to 400 watts, keeping the television off helps as well. In other words, flipping the switch reduces the amount of warm air an AC has to remove.
• Shade AC: I don’t know how often I see AC units on a roof or sitting totally exposed to broad daylight. Not only does that significantly shorten air conditioner life but increases the electricity bill. It always bothers me to see it. Since installations vary, I refrain from giving specific advice. Generally, I recommend placing shade on your air conditioner without inhibiting air flow and in such a way that your shade won’t be torn apart by the wind. It can be a challenge but it is worth it. In my case, I devised a shade that kept my electric bill level in an environment of rapidly rising utility rates.
• Programmable thermostat: Get a programmable thermostat if you don’t have one! It will save at least 10% on your energy bill and enhance your comfort level. I rate the programmable thermostat I bought 17 years ago as one of the best expenditures I have made. My only regret is I didn’t do it sooner. As a programmable thermostat will last for awhile, be sure to do your homework so you get a thermostat that best matches your needs.
There are so many ways to stay cool that one article can’t do the subject justice. Instead of recommending costly and time-consuming ideas, I have tried to emphasize ones that are quick and inexpensive. Hopefully, you will put these to work, obtain savings, and increase you comfort level.
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This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Savvy Shopper: Tips to beat the summer heat