No (Central) Air Conditioning? Five Money-Saving Tips

Happy first day of summer!

In honor of the occasion, I’ve decided to share a few tips for keeping cool.

Central air conditioning is a marvelous invention, creating a cool and comfortable oasis from the beating heat of summer.  But many older homes do not provide this heavenly amenity, leaving us either without air conditioning at all or reliant on old grumbly window units that suck down huge amounts of electricity.

Whether you are without AC or cool the key corners of your home with individual units, keeping the base temperature of your home as cool as possible is the secret to increasing your comfort and lowering your electricity bill. (Even those with central air can save a few dollars.)

Use these five steps BEFORE you turn on the AC to keep your home from heating up and your wallet from drying out:

  1. Sunlight is your enemy. During the day, especially when you are out of the house, close the blinds! For those that blinds that hang horizontally, close them completely with that the underside of the blinds is facing toward you. This keeps sunlight from leaking in between them on their downward trajectory. You may be surprised at how dark a room can get in the middle of the day with effectively closed blinds.
  1. Heat rises. On very hot days, or if you know that your upper floor is a heat trap, open the top of the windows several inches. (Usually the top pane will slide down in the same way the bottom slides up, but this feature is often overlooked.) Providing an opening near the ceiling will alleviate some of the heat build up by allowing the hot air to rise and escape.
  1. Nighttime is your ally. At night, as the air gets cooler, open the windows: any and all of them. Open windows on opposite sides of the house allow for a cross breeze will cool the space much more effectively than any one window alone.
  1. Evict the hot air. Use a fan. Set up a window fan or prop a box fan in front of the window, facing OUT. This may be contrary to “common sense,” which would suggest that you want the fan blowing cool air at you, but if you’re trying to blow air in, you will be fighting against the hot air already occupying your house. Instead, push the stuffy air out of the room with the fan, and cool fresh air from other open windows will naturally fill in behind it. When you turn the fan off, you will still be surrounded by that refreshing nighttime air.
  1. Spend time outside. Shady areas can be surprisingly comfortable places to eat, chit-chat or relax that are often overlooked. While not a way to keep your house cool—strictly speaking—taking advantage of natural breezes rather than artificially cooling the air inside of your house will expand your living space and lower the stress on your wallet.

Do you have any good tips for beating this heat this summer?  Share your advice in the comments or on twitter using @sarahpbennett and #SaltWater.

13346291_1015685631818451_7355454403111797099_o.jpgSunrays shine through a foggy forest canopy in this majestic photo of Redwood National and State Parks (NPS) in California. Redwoods get about 40 percent of their water intake from coastal fog. Photographer Michael Ryan hadn’t planned to shoot that evening, but when he saw light blasting through the forest canopy, he knew he was finally in the right place at the right time. “Fleeting moments like these don’t come often, and I feel extremely fortunate that I had the experience I wanted. Suffice to say, it was one I will never forget.” Photo courtesy of Michael Ryan.— with Michael Ryan Photography at Redwood National and State Parks (NPS). (Via Department of the Interior Facebook page.)