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It’s not just your imagination. It is definitely getting hotter. Over the past decade, eight of the hottest years in history occurred. You don’t have to spend a lot to cool down this summer.
These tips, which are most affordable at $25, will keep you cool and reduce your cooling costs by up to half the usual $1,000. How can you get the temperature to fall? It takes only a short time and some adjustments to your routine.
How to set your thermostat to the right setting
Here are some examples of typical air-conditioning settings for a thermostat that can be programmed at different times of the day:
- 6 a.m. – 9 a.m. = 75%
- 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. =80 degrees
- From 5:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. =75 degrees
- 11 p.m. – 6 a.m. =80 degrees
Get the dial higher
Central air should be set at 78 degrees. All temperatures are in Fahrenheit. Each degree higher than that mark will save you 5 to 8 percent in cooling costs. A typical household will find that setting the thermostat at 80 degrees can save 10 to 15%, while raising it to 85 degrees can save 35 to 55%.
Set the thermostat at 85 or 90 degrees when you are away from home for longer than an hour. The room will cool down within 15 minutes if you return. The cool-down period will result in less energy being used than if the system was running at a lower level while you were away.
Attic Heat Can Be Defeated
On a hot summer day your attic temperature can reach 150 degrees. This can lead to high cooling costs of up to 40%.
Seal around vents and recessed lights before insulation. Place boards on top of the joists for people to walk on when insulation is done. You risk catching fire.
Make use of a fan
A fan costs between two and five cents an hour to run. It will cool a room by making it feel four to six degrees cooler. A fan is able to work in conjunction with an air conditioner, as the air conditioner’s dehumidifying action provides dry air for the fan to move about.
Install a ceiling fan in rooms that are often used. Set it to spin counterclockwise during summer. The fan should only be turned on when you are in the room. This will save you money. An inexpensive motion detector switch, which costs around $20, turns the fan on and off when you enter a room. If you have pets who move around the room, ensure that the switch can be manually turned off. Your pets could cause the fan to spin while you are away.
Sunblockers are a good idea
Sunlight shining through windows can cause up to 20% of the summer heat in your home. Put curtains or blinds in rooms that receive direct sunlight to reduce “solar gain” and make sure they are drawn during daylight hours. A well-insulated house will only gain 1 degree an hour when the outside temperature is above 85 degrees.
West-facing rooms should be considered especially late in the afternoon. Roller shades are the most affordable option, but they also come in a variety of prices: venetian-type microblinds, reflective curtains, and insulated curtains, which cost $100 per window. You can either install shade trees or awnings on the exterior.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats allow you to set temperatures for different times during the day so that air-conditioning only works when you are at home. The cheapest thermostat models ($30), allow you to set four cycles, which, unless overridden manually, will repeat each day. Higher-priced models (50 and above) let you set up settings for each weekday as well as for weekends.
The thermostats come with detailed instructions and are very easy to set up. Simply remove the old thermostat and unscrew the wire leads from the terminals at the back. These wires can be reattached to the terminals of the new model. In systems with separate heating and A/C units, there might be four leads on each side. If the power goes out, AA batteries will keep the settings.
Heat-generating appliances increase your cooling load. Oven baking cookies can raise the temperature by up to 10 degrees. This in turn increases cooling costs by 2 to 5 percent. Cook outside on the grill, and save cooking, especially baking, for cooler hours. It’s also a good idea not to use the dryer or dishwasher at night.
Get Cooler Lights
Although incandescent bulbs do not contribute heat as unshaded Windows, they can add heat to a home and raise the temperature. This will cause you to go to the thermostat for relief. Compact fluorescents can reduce the hot-light effect, and help you save on lighting costs all year. They consume about 75% less energy and emit 90% less heat.
Get rid of the Ducts
Air-conditioning efficiency can be affected by leaky ducts. To ensure that the system works safely and efficiently, ductwork must be balanced between supply and return sides. A problem in one section could cause problems in the other.
The return plenum, where branch ducts join the trunk line and where ducts attach are all areas that are susceptible to leaks. Insulate any ducts running through a hot attic using R-11 fiberglass insulation.
Seal Air Leaks
Hot air is attracted to the areas where cold air enters in winter. Hot air can often be accompanied by high humidity making it even more uncomfortable. You will need a flashlight, silicone caulk that is exterior-rated, and some expanding foam insulation to find and seal any leaks.
Concentrate on your crawl space, attic, and basement. Pay attention to any passages through ceilings or walls, such as electrical conduits, plumbing conduits, and kitchen or bath vents. Another common area for leakage is around doors and windows. It’s likely to leak if you shake a window. Weather stripping is used to seal the window.