Keeping your home cool in the summer

Kids playing in the sprinkler, with parents watching from shaded front porch.

I always look forward to the warm weather that summer brings, but when I'm dreaming of sunny days, I usually forget how difficult it can be to adapt to the heat. Rising temperatures can make even those with the sunniest dispositions rather grumpy. During times when you're sweating and baking in stifling heat, you want your house to be a cool, comfortable oasis, not a sweltering prison.

In these situations, your air conditioner can save the day. So here are several tips to make sure your air conditioning unit is working efficiently and effectively:

  • Be sure your air conditioner is properly sized for your home.
  • Avoid air conditioning unused rooms.
  • Ensure that your air ducts are properly sealed and insulated.
  • Provide shade for the outside half of your air conditioner.
  • Clean your air conditioner's air filter at least once a month to increase the air flow.

A well-functioning air conditioner is great for surviving the summer heat. But constantly keeping one running uses a lot of energy and raises monthly electric bills. To cut down on energy usage, it's a good idea to have a few alternatives for beating the heat. Here are 10 ideas for staying cool in your home during the summer without air conditioning:

  1. Cook your meals outside on a grill instead of preparing food with an indoor stove or oven.
  2. Open the windows and let the cooler nighttime air in before you go to bed.
  3. Turn on bathroom fans after you take a shower and turn on the exhaust fan in your kitchen after you cook. This will blow away the hot air that is created by both activities.
  4. Unplug your electronics when they are not in use. Even if they are turned off, your gadgets will produce heat when they are plugged in.
  5. Make sure your house is properly insulated. A well-done insulation project will keep your home cool in the summer as well as warm in the winter.
  6. Plant trees around your home to create shade.
  7. Refrain from using appliances like dishwashers until cooler parts of the day.
  8. Sleep with cotton bed sheets instead of satin, silk or polyester. Cotton is lightweight and will allow for much more airflow.
  9. Be creative and experiment with fans. Try facing box fans out the windows so they push away hot air, or make a DIY air conditioner by placing a pan or bowl of ice in front of a fan.
  10. Turn off the lights as often as you can. Light bulbs give off heat, so try to use them minimally and take advantage of summer's longer daylight hours.

These ideas may be exactly what you need to keep your home cool in the summer. Making sure you and your family are comfortable at home is the first step to making the most of this wild and wonderful season!

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