by Amy Daniels
While much of the country views August as the “end of summer,” in eastern North Carolina, we know better. While the season may be drawing to a close based on the Earth’s travel path around the Sun, East Carolinians don’t see any break in the summer heat until much later–the end of September for the optimist, or mid to late October for the realist.
After months of scorching heat and elevated electric bills due to cranking up the AC in attempt to maintain home temperatures below 80oF, it’s time to take another look at ways to keep you home cooler without quite so much freon power. Keeping the temperature down before engaging the AC saves you money and is also better for environment.
WINDOWS & DOORS
Throughout the year, the sun hits the Earth at different angles. Sun streaming into our homes in the winter is a wonderful way to offset heating costs, and the opposite is true of cooling costs.
During hot months, keep window shades closed when you are not at home. If you are home during the day, keep eastern windows shaded or blocked during the morning to prevent the temperature in your home from increasing so early in the day, and in the afternoon, close the curtains on western windows to keep the hot evening sun from causing an even greater thermal spike. Later in the summer, when the position of the sun’s position in the sky has shifted, closing south-facing window shades will also help indoor temperatures.
The color of your curtains has an effect on the temperature of your home–especially if window blinds are not in place. Lighter colors reflect sunlight and heat, while dark colors absorb the heat, resulting in warmer indoor temperatures. If you have dark colored curtains, consider installing light colored window blinds to keep the temperature down.
Most ceiling fans come equipped with a small toggle which changes the direction in which the fan spins. In hot weather, toggle the fan to rotate in a clockwise direction, which pushes air down and creates a breeze; this can change the perceived temperature of a room by as much as 4oF In cold weather, toggle the switch to the counterclockwise direction, which draws cold air upward to displace warm air that has risen to the ceiling.
If you are unsure whether your ceiling fan is spinning the correct direction, stand underneath the fan and turn it on high. If you feel a breeze, your set (if it’s hot outside); if not, stop the fan and adjust the toggle.
ELECTRONICS & OTHER HEAT SOURCES
Everything plugged in to every outlet of your home is producing heat. Some things produces more heat than others, but being mindful of what is plugged in and turned on can offset your homes’ cooling needs. Turn off anything with a light bulb when the light is not needed. Unplug electronics when they are not in use and are done charging (a charging cord continues to produce heat even when not charging a device, so unplug the cord from the wall, too).
Avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer unnecessarily (it takes more energy and produces more heat for the refrigerator to lower the inside temperature than the amount of cool air escaping from the opened door). Turn the coffee pot off when not in use.
Run the clothes dryer at night, or take advantage of the hot sun and dry some items on a clothes line to reduce dryer usage. Turn the heat-dry feature on your dishwasher off.
Avoid burning candles. That little flame is adding to the indoor temperature. Consider using reed diffusers or cool mist diffusers as an aromatherapy alternative.
Cooking during the hot summer months puts additional strain on your air conditioning system due to prolonged high temperatures. Grilling outdoors reduces stove top cooking needs. Schedule baking for cooler days, or later in the day when it is cooler.
Take cooler showers and baths. Consider turning the temperature on your hot water heater down by 5-10oF; this lowers the demand on the heater and keeps super hot showers to a minimum.
Make sure air conditioner vents are open and unobstructed. If you have floor vents and children, this may be a daily task. Check that window and door frames are sealed properly to prevent your cool air from leaking out the seams. In the evenings, take note of the outside temperature; if it’s cooler outside than inside open some windows for a few hours.
If your house in full sun all day, consider planting some trees–it will take a few years before they start producing enough shade to make a difference, but in the long run, it is worth it. Plant on the west and south-west side of the house for the most immediate impact. If they will be in line-of-sight of south-facing windows, plant deciduous trees to provide shade in the summer, but allow the sun to warm the south-side of the house when they lose their leaves in the fall and winter.