Stay Cool

Air conditioning accounts for up to 6% of a home's energy on average for homes with AC.  A few easy steps can help you keep cool, lower your AC use and save money.

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Energy and water savings

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  • Lower your AC energy use up to 15% and save money
  • Increase the life of your AC unit
  • Reduce carbon emissions and air pollution

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Overview

The Action
We will use our drapes, fans and other easy actions to lower our air conditioning energy use.
Is this action for me?
If you have air conditioning or even if you don’t but want to learn how to keep cool in the summer, this action is for you.
When and Who?
This action can be done any time and is generally a do it yourself action.
How long will it take?
Quick - just a few minutes, a bit extra if you upgrade to new drapes or add a ceiling fan.
What is the cost?
No cost required, potential additional costs if you decide to purchase new drapes or plant a tree.

Benefits

  • Lower your AC energy use up to 15% and save money

  • Increase the life of your AC unit

  • Reduce carbon emissions and air pollution

The Basics

There are lots of clever ways to keep your home cool and reduce the work of your air conditioner. Simple things like closing drapes to keep the sunshine out during the day and planting trees to create shade can save energy and money on AC bills.

Checklist

Use curtains or blinds to keep the sun out
Block the sun's heat with awnings, shutters and films
Plant deciduous trees to provide shade
Close doors and vents to unused rooms
Limit use of the oven and dryer when it's hot
Use fans to help you stay cool

Keep doors, windows & curtains shut tight during the day

One of the easiest ways to save energy on air conditioning is to keep the hot sun out of the house during the day.  If you live in a climate where it cools off at night, turn your AC off and open your windows at night to cool your home.  Then in the morning, shut the windows and curtains or blinds to capture the cool air.  Medium colored draperies with white plastic backings can reduce heat gains by up to 33%.  Shades work the same as drapes.  

For extra efficiency invest in extra insulating dual shades, where one side is white and one is dark.  Face the dark side inside during the summer to reflect more heat out and facing outside during the winter to absorb more heat.  If you have blinds, you can open them slightly and direct light up towards the ceiling without any significant heat gain.  This way you can have light and keep cool.  Learn more about energy efficient window coverings.  Keep interior doors open to increase the flow of cooled air throughout your home and maximize your AC’s effectiveness.

Block the sun’s heat from the outside

Awnings, overhangs and shutters can all help to block the sun coming in.  You can also add high-reflectivity films to windows to add additional reflection.  The most effective are mirror like films on east and west facing windows.  However, these films also block the sun in the winter, so are best used in climates where the main goal is summer cooling.  Planting trees can also provide shade in the summer and keep your home cool.  If you have cold winters, consider planting deciduous trees outside south or west facing windows that will provide shade in the summer and then drop their leaves to provide sun in the winter.  

Cool only where you need it

Avoid cooling space you’re not using.  Close doors and vents to unoccupied rooms to lower AC use.  The less space your air conditioner needs to cool, the less it will work.  For example, if you have a two-story home where the upstairs is unoccupied during the day, close all the upstairs doors and only cool the first floor.  Also, use exhaust fans sparingly when the AC is on.  Kitchen and bath exhaust fans remove heat and humidity from cooking and showering, which improves cooling, but limit their use to no more than fifteen minutes of operation to prevent cooled air from being lost and making your AC work harder.   

Don’t add extra heat

Limit your use of heat-generating appliances like the oven or clothes dryer during the hottest parts of the day. Use a microwave instead of a stove and do your laundry in the evening when it’s cooler.

Use a fan to help cool the room

In the summer heat, air motion of any kind creates a wind chill effect and makes the body feel cooler. When you use a fan with your AC you can set your thermostat 4°F higher and still stay comfortable.  If you raise your AC thermostat settings, be sure to take credit on the Adjust Thermostat action.  Set ceiling fans to move in a counterclockwise direction.  Remember that fans cool people, not rooms, so turn the fans off when you leave the room to avoid wasting energy.  If you live in a moderate climate and follow all the steps above along with a fan, you might be able to turn your AC off completely for some or all of the year!