With record high temperatures sweeping across the entire country, many of us in the greater Pittsburgh area are looking for ways to beat the heat. Sure, you could just turn down the AC an extra couple of notches, but that will almost certainly put a drain on your wallet.
So, what are some ways that you can keep the temperature in your house down without having to spend a fortune on your utility bills? Here are a few ideas, some of which you’ve most likely heard, but a few others that you might not have thought of before.
1. Invest in Fans
If you’re like most homeowners, you most likely have one or two fans placed strategically around your house to increase ventilation: one in your master bedroom and another in your main living space. If you’re feeling especially hospitable, you may even have one in your guest room as well.
However, that’s not enough. To make the most difference in the overall feeling of your house, you’ll need ceiling fans in every space of your home, such as your office, spare bedrooms, and even a bathroom. If that’s not enough, buy a bunch of mini fans and place them throughout your house. It’ll keep your house feeling extra cool, and if you open the windows at night to let some extra airflow in, you might even be able to delay turning on the AC indefinitely.
2. Add Extra Insulation
While the insulation that’s in between your exterior and interior walls might be a little hard to get to, there are all sorts of places in your house that air is escaping that you might not have noticed. Look for cracks in your walls that may result from a foundation that is settling, as well as slits in between your windows and the frame. If necessary, contact a professional and get a quote about how much it would cost to add insulation to different parts of your house. It might be expensive, but the savings in the long run might be worth it. Also, don’t forget to check under the cracks in your doors; a simple door skirt that you can purchase online and attach to the bottom of your door may be enough to significantly lower your bill.
3. Check Your Air Conditioner
If it’s been awhile since you’ve had your ductwork and AC unit inspected, it may be time to call your local shop and have it checked out. Even if it’s still operational, they may be able to determine if there’s a leak as well as other ways that can make your unit more efficient. If your unit can work half as hard and still pump out more AC, you’ll notice it the next time your utility bill arrives.
4. Schedule Your Thermostat
For people who spend a lot of time away from their house, one of the best ways to lower their energy footprint is to simply schedule the thermostat to either shut off or raise the temperature until they return. Nearly every unit these days allow for some form of scheduling, while the more modern ones even allow you to control your unit from your phone. Set the AC several degrees higher while you’re away at work all day and then schedule it to go back to normal just before you arrive. It may not sound like much, but those 8-9 hours you spend relaxing your AC can make a huge difference.
5. Hang Your Laundry to Dry
If you live in a house that has a backyard space (or anywhere that’s semi-private), you can always take advantage of mother nature to take care of your laundry for you. Dryer units are one of the most notorious energy suckers in your house, so hanging your laundry on the line can save you a bundle on energy bills. If you’re uncomfortable hanging up all your laundry on the line, save a couple rounds for your intimates. A few cycles won’t hurt your bill too much and you’ll have far fewer stares from your neighbors.
6. Plant a Few Trees
This is more of a tip for a couple years down the road, but if you don’t have any trees in your neighborhood that can cut the light, plant a few that are already partially grown and water them like crazy. In a few years, you should have enough growth that your house will sit in the shade somewhat and keep your energy bills lower. Plus, if you plant the right kind and take care of them, they may even increase the resale value of your home. Yet another way to let nature take care of your needs.
7. Invest in a Ductless AC
If you haven’t seen these beauties around, you’re definitely missing out. A ductless AC unit is exactly as its name implies: a way to cool your house without having to install a complicated duct system throughout the house. They’re not as popular in the states as they are in countries overseas where air conditioning isn’t a necessity, but they’re gaining traction among people who are looking for low-cost ways to keep the temperature down.
A ductless AC unit sits at the top of the wall and uses an outdoor compression unit to allow for the refrigerant, electricity and drainage lines to cycle through. The air then flows directly from the outside through a little hole, cooled, and then blasted into the rooms you want to cool. They’re relatively inexpensive and can save you a bundle on your energy bills.
8. Cook Outside
Since an AC unit’s job is to keep the temperature inside the house down, it only makes sense to minimize the amount of heat that is generated inside the main living areas. One of the best ways to do this is to do as much of your cooking outside as possible, including grilling your meats and vegetables on the back patio. If you have to cook inside, try to use a slow cooker or a toaster oven instead of the oven or the stove, both of which generate an incredible amount of heat that the AC unit then tries to work against. Who knows, you may even feel tempted to try out some new and creative recipes!
9. Ask for Different Electricity Rates
Call up your local electricity provider and ask if there are any other ways that you can be charged for consumption. In some places that are deregulated, electric companies may allow you to pay for a variable rate, which changes depending on your usage, or a fixed rate that locks you into a set rate for a specific time period. If you notice your consumption changes regularly, ask if you can get on a plan that allows you to pay month-to-month.
10. Reposition Your Thermostat
You may not realize it, but where your thermostat is located can make a big difference in how much energy you are consuming. If your unit is on a wall that is next to a hot window, it will interpret your house as being much hotter than it is and try to compensate by making your outside unit work harder. Position your thermostat on an interior wall away from the heat to more accurately assess how warm it is in your house and cool your home appropriately.