June 16, 2008

Six Ways to Keep Your Home Cooler For Less

1. Plan meals to avoid using the oven. Invest in more than one size of slow cooker, as well as toaster ovens, George Foreman grills, and/or Panini presses, all of which avoid heating the entirety of the kitchen. Grilling outside is another option, and it’s fun, too. And, remember, whether you’re cooking indoors or out, always make more than you need so you can use the leftovers during the week.

2. Rearrange your rooms to fight the heat. Warm air is less dense than cool air, and it rises. Your second floor will be warmer than the ground floor, and your ground floor will have more warm air than the basement. Then, there’s the sunlight bombarding your house to consider. Insulation from the heat keeps interior rooms cooler than the ones exposed to sunlight; plus, the room sharing a wall with the garage will be warmer than any interior room. Fight the heat by finding which rooms are naturally located to remain somewhat cooler than the rest. Consider rearranging your rooms accordingly: if the formal living room will be cooler than the great room next to the garage, then start using the living room for everyday activities. If the guest room is located better, cooling-wise, than the home office, ponder switching those two rooms. Make it a family habit to keep doors shut between rooms, so you can have some rooms cooler than others, and block off vents for rooms that are not needed every day. Don’t let the traditional uses for your rooms control your thinking: it’s your house, do what’s best for your family even if it’s unconventional.

3. Position furniture to maximize cooling. Move your furniture to maximize airflow: a sofa pulled away from the wall will get more air circulation than one backed against it. Bookshelves, filing cabinets, armoires, entertainment centers, even tapestries and a wall of framed photos provide added insulation for a room.

4. Use stand fans and box fans. Incorporate stand fans, or box fans, where you'll spend the most time. Stand fans usually come with remote controls and multiple speeds. Some are generic white plastic, but more and more stand fans are becoming available in designer treatments (Cottage, Art Deco). The new ones are much quieter, too. Why fans? Flowing, moving air will make you feel cooler.

5. Heat-proof your window treatments. It can be hard to sacrifice that great view through a big, clear window or patio door, but glass is far from the best insulation – even if it is double-paned. Covering windows can make a big difference in keeping rooms cooler, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot to do so. Mini-blinds can be purchased for less than five dollars per window, and can make a big difference on how cool room will be on a hot afternoon. For a little more, you can buy mini-blinds that are specifically made to help with heat, as well as draperies specifically designed to block a blinding hot sun blaring into a room on a hot, summer afternoon. The room will be darker, and you may lose that view, but the goal of keeping the room cooler before you start spending your budget’s electricity dollars will be met.

6. Use room air conditioners instead of the central system. Use room air conditioners, or portable air conditioners, rather than a central air-conditioning system, cooling only the rooms that you actually use. These units come with timers and thermostats, which allow you to coordinate cooling the rooms only when it will be needed. For example, bedroom room air conditioners can be programmed to start up and run for approximately 2 hours before bedtime, with the thermostat automatically controlling the air temperature of the room throughout the night. Portable air conditioners can also be used in the den and home office when needed. The central system can be ignored, or its thermostat set much higher than in previous years: 88 degrees, for example, with only the den and the bedrooms kept at 78 degrees in the evenings with room air conditioners, and unused rooms having closed-off vents, is a comfortable environment and much less expensive than the central system being used for all your square footage.

For more information:

How to Cook 3: Slow Cookers

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