In Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland, staying cool in the summer is as elusive as trying to thaw out the other ten months of the year (aka winter). For some homeowners, that’s a seemingly impossible task, and for all homeowners it tends to be an expensive one. But there are some ways you can curb the effects of the relentless summer heat on the comfort of your home without adding an extra few pages to your monthly energy bills.
1. Change your A/C air filter
If you have central air conditioning, changing the filter every month is a necessity during the summer if you want to reduce energy costs (or ever hear a brief pause in the otherwise steady hum of your air conditioner). A dirty air filter reduces the air flow in your A/C system, which lengthens each cooling cycle and obliterates A/C efficiency.
2. Keep windows shaded during sunny hours
Even partial or sheer shading can reduce the radiation in your home, especially in rooms with larger windows and loads of natural light. If you love having sunlight pour into your home, pulling the shades when light is at its most direct, even for an hour, can diffuse the rays that heat your home the most and dramatically reduce the workload on your A/C unit.
3. Open windows during cool DRY parts of day.
At times when it’s cool and dry outside but your home needs to cool off, open the windows to let the fresh air cool off your home. If certain areas of your home don’t get great air circulation, try switching the HVAC fan to ON instead of AUTO to move outdoor air inside even when the A/C isn’t running.
However, at times of high humidity, opening the windows can increase the total workload on your A/C once it runs again. Removing moisture from your home’s air and cooling the air down places a higher demand on your A/C than simply running on a limited basis when the humid outdoor air is cool overnight. Remember, anytime you create a scenario in which your A/C has to run for hours just to bring your house to a comfortable level, you’re forcing it to work too hard, and you’re paying for it.
And if your windows don’t open properly? Tell us, we know a guy.
4. Use a programmable thermostat . . . WISELY
Setting your thermostat to a higher temperature when you sleep or leave the house can bring the workload and the total cost of your A/C way down, but avoid common mistakes that can actually increase your expense. Don’t adjust the temperature more than 5 to 10 degrees warmer. If you let your house temperature get to 90 and then try to bring it down to 70, your A/C will have to work more than it would have to maintain at the 70 level. As a rule of thumb, the longer the period of vacancy in your home, the closer to a 10-degree difference between your home and away settings.
5. Remove dirt, debris, and dust from your A/C unit
Better airflow equals better efficiency. Keep the A/C coils free of obstructions of all kinds, and you’ll be much happier with its performance.
6. Keep air cool with a well insulated attic
Your roof gets ridiculously hot. If you’ve ever worked on one during the summer, you know how scorching shingles can get. If your attic lacks insulation, you’re essentially cooking your attic and heating the rest of your home all day long. Good, fresh insulation creates a heat barrier between the searing tar and grit on your roof and the air-conditioned comfort of your home. (Ask us if you’d like a free, professional evaluation of your attic’s insulation.)
7. Make sure windows are well sealed and high performing
Okay, yes, a few of these solutions are products we offer, but they are our areas of expertise, after all. If your windows just need caulking, you won’t need to invest in new ones just yet. But if you’d like to stop allowing mass amounts of hot air into your home through gaps and glass with poor efficiency, we do recommend you contact us about a free estimate, at least to know what your options are for improving your windows’ performance.
8. Review window ratings
You want a window with a low U-factor (the lower the U factor, the better the window is at preventing heat transfer through the glass. This is ideal during the extreme seasons. Another factor is the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SGHC), a measure of how much heat is generated by sunlight streaming through the window. While a lower SGHC is great during the summertime, many customers prefer a higher SGHC for the benefit of more heat from the sun during the winter.
Keep entry doors and patio doors in mind as well, as they can be a major source of heat transfer in the house.
10. Reduce electricity use all around the house. Light bulbs left on unnecessarily add to the utility bills and the temperature in your home, so avoid that double whammy. The same goes for fans. They are great for circulating air in a room while you occupy them, but avoid using floor fans in unoccupied rooms as they do nothing to reduce the workload on your home’s A/C. Unlike an air conditioner, a basic fan achieves its full desired result the moment you turn it on, so there’s no reason to keep it running when you don’t absolutely need it.