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Published Jul. 16, 2021

Hot, sunny summers send some Californians to the surf and sand, but many more of us to the shade of our homes. As we all know too well, keeping our homes cool in the summer months can get very expensive.

The good news is, rising temperatures don’t have to mean rising energy bills. There are plenty of ways to stay cool without spending a fortune on air-conditioning.

Here are 10 things you can do to make your home cooler and more comfortable this summer without breaking the bank.

Low-Cost & Easy

1) Change or clean the filters in your air-conditioning units. Fresh filters maximize your air-conditioners’ efficiency, which keeps you cooler and saves you money. It’s easy to find, remove and replace the filter in today’s user-friendly models. shutterstock_699677323Many filters are printed with numbers indicating their size in inches or centimeters, e.g. 20 x 20 x 1. Shop online or at your local hardware store for a replacement. (If you can’t find your filter or its size, search on the Internet for a manual, using your unit’s brand and model number.)

2) Bake with glass or ceramic pans. A hot oven can make your kitchen extremely uncomfortable. According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), switching up your metal pans in summer allows you to set the oven 25 degree below the normal setting. That means less heat in the kitchen. Better yet, skip the oven altogether and grill your dinner outside! (Visit the NWF for more home energy conservation tips.)

Move the Air

3) Install ceiling fans. Ceiling fans don’t cool the air, but they make you feel cooler by moving the air around. In fact, you should be able to raise the temperature of your A/C setting if you have fans working as well.  Two important things to remember about ceiling fans: 

    • Unlike the A/C, there’s no point in keeping a fan on when you’re not in the room to enjoy the cooling effect of the moving air. So save yourself some money and turn off the fans when you leave the room or the house. shutterstock_1505538905
    • Your blades must be turning counterclockwise to provide a cooling effect by moving air down into the room. Check the direction by watching the blades when the fan starts up, or stand under them to be sure you feel the air moving. (Conversely, the blades should move in a clockwise direction in winter to pull cool air up and push the warm air at the top of the room down.) Most fans are adjusted using a switch on the remote control or the unit itself, or a pull chain.

4) Install a solar attic fan. These energy-efficient gadgets are very popular in California. Attics are of course hot spots, being located directly under the roof. The heat collecting in your attic radiates into the rest of your home. Enter the solar attic fan, a small self-contained unit with no wiring or ducts required. Many DIY’ers install these themselves. A small photovoltaic (PV) panel on top of the fan collects sunlight and generates the energy to power the fan. The fan pushes hot air out of the attic through your existing vents and draws in cooler air from outside. Some estimates say a solar attic fan can reduce your attic’s temperature by 40 or 50 degrees!

Your Home’s Structure

5) Address your windows. You can keep more hot air out and more cool air in with a variety of simple window improvements, many of them DIY.
    • Weatherstripping around the windows’ edges to reduce air leaks
    • Window film, which blocks some of the sun’s UV rays
    • Bubble wrap taped over the panes and window frames, which acts as another layer of insulation
    • Shutters to block sunlight and heat
    • Shades (see below) to block sunlight and heat
    • Energy-efficient windows to minimize the heat entering the home.
6) Install a cool roof. “Cool roofs” are required on virtually all new California homes, so you may already have one. If not, you’ll want your next roof to be made of a material that reflects more sunlight and absorbs less heat. Cool roofs come in a variety of materials including tile and shingle, and in many colors. Read more in our blog article, How Cool Roofs Address Climate Change. 

Decorative & Functional

7) Install blackout curtains or solar blinds. Blackout curtains block out more of the sun’s heat in addition to blocking light and increasing privacy. Solar shades look much like regular roller shades but are made of a mesh fabric that blocks the amount of UV rays coming in. Added benefits: Solar shades are somewhat see-through, and your furniture will have less fading from the sun. Both blackout curtains and solar shades are readily available at retail and online stores.

8) Plant shade trees. Let sun-loving foliage absorb the sun’s heat before it even reaches your windows. Deciduous trees planted around your house provide shade and reduce your home’s temperature (while allowing sunlight in during winter, when the leaves drop).

Better Energy

 9) Install a mini-split air-conditioning unit. Mini-splits are increasingly popular because they are highly energy efficient, ductless and easy to install, and compact. Some models also provide heating in colder months. Mini-splits are also called “air-source heat pumps” which refers to the simple air-exchange technology they rely on, similar to how your refrigerator operates. shutterstock_1421309849

 10) Install a solar energy system. Put the sunlight and heat bombarding your home to good use by installing solar panels! You’ll not only produce clean energy to power your A/C and fans, but you’ll have a cooler roof too. Whether your A/C comes from central air, window units or mini-splits, it’s guilt-free when it’s solar-powered. Best of all, your A/C will cost less to run because your solar electricity is cheaper than the utility’s electricity.

For more summer cooling tips, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.


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