Tuesday, July 14, 2009

10 WAYS TO BEAT THE HEAT

Here are 10 tips—most costing less than $25—that will keep you comfortable and cut the typical cooling bill by as much as half. What's needed to get the temperature to drop? Only a little time and a few changes in your routine.

Tip 1: Set the Dial Higher - If you have central air, set your thermostat above 78 degrees. You'll save 5 to 8 percent on cooling costs with each degree above that mark. When you leave home for more than one hour, set the thermostat to 85 or 90 degrees. Reset it upon your return, and the room will cool down in only 15 minutes. The system will use less energy during the cool-down period than if you had left it running at a lower setting while you were out.

Tip 2: Use a Fan - A fan, which costs two to five cents per hour to operate, will make a room feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler. Also, a fan works well in tandem with an air conditioner because the dehumidifying action of the air conditioner provides drier air that the fan can then move around. In frequently used rooms, install a ceiling fan (set it to spin counterclockwise in summer). You'll save the most money by running the fan only when you're in the room. A motion-detector switch (around $20), which turns the fan on when you enter a room and off when the room is empty, is a good addition. If nighttime temperatures drop into the 70s where you live, you might want to purchase a whole-house fan, which runs $300 to $600 installed. This type of unit goes in an upstairs ceiling, ideally in a central hall. When run at night with the windows open, the fan will pull cool air into the house as it vents hot air out through the attic.

Tip 3: Practice "Texas Cool" - The morning and evening routine that takes advantage of cool outdoor temperatures at night and keeps the heat at bay as much as possible during daylight hours. It's very simple to do: At night when the temperature drops, open windows and bring in cool air with window fans or a whole-house fan. As soon as the sun comes up or the air starts to heat up, shut the windows and shades and keep doors closed.

Tip 4: Use Sunblockers - As much as 20 percent of summer heat enters your home as sunlight shining through windows. To cut "solar gain," add curtains or blinds to rooms that get direct sun and draw them in daylight hours. With the shades drawn, a well-insulated house will gain only 1 degree per hour when outdoor temperatures are above 85 degrees. Pay special attention to west-facing rooms late in the day. Two exterior options are to install awnings or plant shade trees.

Tip 5: Install a Programmable Thermostat - A programmable thermostat lets you preset temperatures for different times of the day, so air-conditioning is working only when you are home. The least expensive thermostat models ($30) let you set four cycles that, unless manually overridden, repeat every day. Higher-priced models ($50 and up) allow you to create settings for each weekday and for each weekend day.

Tip 6: Cook Smart - Any appliance that generates heat adds to your cooling load. An oven baking cookies can easily raise the room temperature 10 degrees, which in turn jacks up overall cooling costs 2 to 5 percent. Save cooking (especially baking) for cooler hours, or cook outdoors on your grill. It is also a good idea to run the dishwasher and clothes dryer at night.

Tip 7: Get Cooler Lights - Incandescent bulbs don't contribute as much heat as unshaded windows, but they do add heat to a house and can raise the perceived temperature, sending you to the thermostat to seek relief. To reduce this hot-light effect and save lighting costs year-round, replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. They use about 75 percent less energy and emit 90 percent less heat.

Tip 8: Snug Up the Ducts - Leaky ducts can cut into air-conditioning efficiency. Ductwork must be balanced between the supply and return sides of the system in order for it to work safely and efficiently, so making a repair in one section can cause a problem in another. Leak-prone areas include the return plenum; where branch ducts meet the trunk line; and where ducts attach to outlets. Also, insulate ducts that run through a hot attic. It's wise to leave these type of repairs to a HVAC pro. While the contractor is on site checking your ducts, have him tune up the air-conditioning unit by cleaning filters, unplugging coils, unblocking drains and lubing the fan.

Tip 9: Seal Air Leaks - The places where cold air infiltrates in winter are routes for hot air in summer. And what's worse, hot air is often accompanied by high humidity, making you even more uncomfortable. Armed with a flashlight, exterior-rated silicone caulk and a couple cans of expanding foam insulation, hunt down and seal all leaks. Concentrate on the attic, basement and crawl space; pay close attention to anything that passes through a ceiling or wall, such as ductwork, electrical or plumbing conduits and kitchen and bath vents. Other common leaky spots are around windows and doors. If you can rattle a window, it's leaking. Seal it with weather stripping.

Tip 10: Defeat Attic Heat - The temperature in your attic can reach 150 degrees on a hot summer day, a situation that if left unchecked can drive up cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. If your attic has less than R-22 insulation — 7 inches of fiberglass or rock wool, or 6 inches of cellulose — you should add more. (The U.S. Department of Energy says most homes should have between R-22 and R-49 insulation in the attic. To check what's right for your region, go to the Department of Energy website.) Also make sure your attic is ventilated. Gable vents can lower attic temperatures about 10 degrees; a ridge-and-soffit ventilation system will reduce attic temperature to around 100 degrees. When reroofing, consider using white or pale-gray shingles instead of dark ones. These keep the attic cooler than dark shingles.

Source: ThisOldHouse.com


The Butler Team
Tina & Mike Butler
(918) 740-1000

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