Don’t have an air conditioner in your home? You’re not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, one-third of all U.S. homes do not have central air conditioning. And in homes that do have central air, the U.S. Department of Energy says that air conditioners use 5 percent of all energy in the U.S., costing $11 billion to households. So whether you do or don’t have central air conditioning, you certainly will want to find easy ways to cool your home without the need for an air conditioner — or without yours running all the time at great expense.
Here are some of the top ways to cool your home without air conditioner usage:
Shut Off Lights
Every time you leave a room, even for a few moments, shut off those lights. Compact fluorescent light bulbs and LED lights may be energy-efficient, but they will best serve you by being turned off. Incandescent light bulbs create a large amount of heat in a room, and so if you have those types of bulbs, keep them off as often as possible.
Hang Energy-Efficient Window Coverings
Curtains, shades and blinds created from energy-efficient materials and those with “blackout liners” behind them will block the sun’s rays, keeping it cooler in your home and guarding your hardwood floors, carpets, art and furniture from the harmful UV rays that cause fading.
When you shower or take a bath, and for a while afterward, have your bathroom ventilation fan running to remove the heat and humidity that warms your home. The same goes for your oven range vent, which can pull stovetop cooking heat and steam out of your home. “An energy audit showed me that my stovetop vent fan wasn’t just for when I burned something in the oven or on the range,” says retiree Philip Dawes. Fans help cool the home, and Future Energy Savers say ventilation is one of the least expensive and most energy-efficient ways to cool your home.
Avoid Using the Oven
Your home will stay cooler if you cook more often outdoors on your grill, or if you use a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice maker or other small kitchen appliance.
Use Ceiling Fans Correctly
Operate your ceiling fans in the right direction: counterclockwise. This circulates air downward, creating that cooling breeze. But these, too, should be turned off when you’re not in the room, because that breeze is more efficiently cooling your skin, not cooling the room.
Be Mindful of Attic Fans
Turn them on to help cool your home, and be sure to turn them off at night when not needed to avoid energy overuse.
You may be tempted on a hot day to open your windows, hoping for a cool breeze to waft in, but open windows on a hot day just bring more heat into your home. At night, open your windows wide to let that cooler air in, but close windows, blinds and curtains before sunrise to prevent the morning sun from warming your home.
Close blinds, even on a sunny day, to help keep your home cool. Place houseplants on your windowsill or by your windows. They will absorb some of the sun’s rays.
Refresh or install insulation in your attic, as well as in your walls, to help prevent your home’s cool air from escaping. Also, seal any ducts. The folks at Future Energy say doing so can save you 30 percent on your cooling costs, and good seals throughout your home will keep your home cooler.
Install patio and window awnings outdoors. Not only are these attractive elements of your outdoor living space, but they also can reduce the heat inside your home by 65 percent for southern-facing windows and by 77 percent for western-facing windows, all by keeping the sun from reaching your home’s windows, walls and siding.
Plant deciduous trees around your home. In summer, their leaves will create shade that will keep your home cooler inside. And plant shrubs and bushes near heat-producing outdoor elements such as your air conditioning unit and heat-radiating driveways.
Use energy-efficient fans, and choose an energy-efficient air conditioner should you wish to install one or upgrade your inefficient system.
Sharon Naylor is with CNS