Cool it! 10 tips for keeping temps and costs low in the summer heat
Keeping cool is important! Minnesota may be known for its snow and cold winters, but anyone who lives here knows that humid, scorching summers are just as emblematic of the state’s climate. Excessive heat has been Minnesota’s third deadliest weather factor since 1990, with only tornados and flooding killing more people in the last 25 years (www.weather.gov).
Beyond the potential health impacts of the first summertime heat wave, it is often accompanied by an annoying jump in energy bills. Here is some advice to help you stay safe and avoid paying your AC’s weight in gold to run it — while maintaining the comfort of your home.
1. Get smart
If you have central air, programmable or smart thermostats can be set to automatically adjust the temperature throughout the day. Setting a cooling schedule for your home can help you avoid unnecessary cooling. Learn more about thermostat options and how they can keep your electricity costs in check on CEE’s Home Energy Hub.
2. Switch off the fans
Using a fan in conjunction with an AC can help keep you comfortable, but remember: Fans cool people, not rooms. Like leaving the lights on, leaving a fan on when you are not in the room is a waste of energy.
3. Pick a higher setpoint
Try setting your AC 5 to 10 degrees ahead of where you normally would — even slightly higher temps can make a huge difference when it’s over 90 degrees outside. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends an AC setpoint of 78 degrees.
4. Turn off your AC
It is easy to just set your AC’s temperature and walk away, but making sure to turn your AC off on cooler days or at nighttime can be a huge help to energy bills.
5. Darkness = coolness
Sunlight coming in through windows will heat indoor space. To minimize this effect, pull the curtains or shades when you don’t need the natural light. There are also energy-saving blinds that reflect heat to help keep indoor spaces cooler, and they come at comparable prices to their classic counterparts.
6. Consider internal heat sources
Obviously a 95-degree day is not the time to host your friends for a bread-baking competition, but there are internal heat sources outside the kitchen as well. Technologies like computers, dishwashers, older non-LED light bulbs, and even stereos and TVs give off heat. Making sure to unplug those whenever you can helps minimize the additional heat.
7. Save money through utility programs
Some utilities offer programs that provide rebates or monthly credits when you help them reduce strain on the electrical grid. Through such programs, utilities raise your smart thermostat a few degrees for short periods of time. There is little to no effect on comfort — because previously cooled air continues to circulate during control intervals, most people don’t even notice when the program is active.
8. Check your filter
Whether you have a window unit or central air, performing routine preventative maintenance can lower energy consumption and extend the life of your machine. Each month that your AC is in use, check the filter and the drainage pipe, both of which can get clogged with debris and cause increase energy use.
9. Listen to your AC
Paying attention to your ACs warning signs can alert you to when it requires routine maintenance (see above) or when you would benefit from professional help. Some key issues to watch out for include noisy operation, rapid cycling, and sudden drastic increases in your energy bills.
10. Seal up leaks
Tiny leaks around doorframes and windows can mean that you’re losing some of the cold air your AC created, which is an inefficient use of energy. Weatherstripping can seal up leaks around doorways and caulk can patch gaps in window frames. If you are ready for a bigger project, consider air sealing your attic and walls. CEE’s free Energy Advisor Service is available to answer your questions about home energy projects like air sealing and many others.
Department of Energy: Spring and Summer Energy-Saving Tips
Home Energy Hub: Air Conditioning that Saves You Money
Home Energy Hub: Prepare your Home for Summer Savings