With the days getting warmer, you may be thinking of all the fun you’ll have this summer: cookouts, roads trips or days at the beach. But you may also want to take some time to think about one of the not-so-fun parts of summer: those increased energy bills as you run the AC constantly to keep a cooler home during summer. Fortunately, there are several ways to plan ahead to make it easier to cool the home.
These ideas run from replacing cooling equipment to simply adding an awning outside windows. Costs could be negligible (as in the case of weatherstripping) or run in the thousands of dollars (as in the case of landscaping or a new AC unit). But if you’ve needed to replace key parts of your home and you want to reduce your energy costs, it could be worth the upfront price. Plus, most of these ideas only take one afternoon to implement. Below are several ways to keep a cooler home during summer.
Check your windows
Your windows are the place that you stand to lose the most cold air and gain the most heat. Heat gain and loss account for 25 to 30 percent of residential heating and cooling energy use, according to the EPA. However, updating to new window technologies, like low-e storm windows, can help save 12 to 33 percent per year in heating and cooling costs.
But if you have an older home, replacing windows can come with disadvantages. And it can be expensive, running hundreds of dollars per window. So if you’d rather not replace your windows at this time, you can choose other options for getting a cooler home during summer:
- Place awnings over windows so that less heat is hitting the window directly and transferring into the home.
- Replace just the windows that leak the most air. You can hire a professional inspector to perform what’s called a “blower door” test to determine the location of the most air leaks. Though, if it’s bad enough, you can usually tell because it’s simply drafty around that window or door.
- Invest in weatherstripping around windows and doors to keep them from leaking air. Different doors and windows have different weatherstripping needs, which you can read about in detail here.
Fix your landscaping to keep a cooler home in summer
Another idea is to think from the outside in. In other words, plan your landscaping so that you have more shade around your home. Simply put, if the sun can’t hit your windows, it can’t warm your home as much.
Look at your home to see which windows let in the most natural sunlight. Then, see if there is a large tree or shrub you can put outside the window to obstruct the sunlight.
You’ll have to be careful with this idea, however. Trees planted too close to the home can disrupt the foundation as roots expand outward. You may want to consult with a professional landscaping service if you choose this option.
Replace your AC unit
If your AC unit is old, replacing it can be a direct path to a cooler home during summer. Older or lower-quality AC units run less efficiently. According to the EPA, replacing an old air conditioner with a newer energy-efficient unit could save 20 to 40 percent on your home cooling costs.
What’s more, many older units also use a coolant called Freon, R-22 or HCFC-22, which was banned in new HVAC systems in 2010, making basic repairs like a coolant change prohibitively expensive. So if it has been a while since you’ve had a unit installed, it might be a good idea to get it replaced before it lets you down on the hottest days of the summer. (You can read more here about finding the right AC unit.) Your new AC unit should last around 15 years. Contact your local HVAC dealer to find the right unit for your home.
And remember, when working toward a cooler home during summer, choose an option that works with your budget. Even simple weatherstripping around your most drafty window can help in the long run.
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Keeping Cool: How to Choose the Right A/C Unit
HVAC Basics: What’s a Good SEER Rating?
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