This guest post comes from Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping.com:
I live up in the northern part of the Sacramento Valley in Redding, Calif., where it gets hot! By hot, I mean I sweat just going out to get the mail. Come mid-July, 110-degree days are fairly common. The weather currently is starting to warm up, and thoughts of scorching days are rattling around in my head like a bad dream. Fortunately, the rattling has stopped long enough for me to think of some frugal and easy ways to lower your cooling bill this summer. Here are some tips that I use with great success.
Invest in a whole-house fan. We put a whole-house fan in our home a few years ago, and it's fantastic. We installed it in the hallway ceiling of the home. When turned on, it works by pulling in the cool air from the outside and bringing it in the house and sending the hot air up to the attic and out the exterior vents.
I call it Operation House Fan, and I engage in it every summer night around 10 p.m. It goes like this: After turning the house fan on, I march to all bedroom windows and sliding glass doors, open them up, and let the cool air in. It cools off the house at least 5 to 10 degrees. Note: If you live in a part of the country where the humidity is unbearable, first of all, I'm so sorry, and second, the house fan may not be as effective, as you are not going to want to pull humid air into your home every night.
Become a tree hugger. I love trees! When we moved into our home seven years ago, one of the first things my wife and I did was plant three crape myrtle trees in front of our living room and bedroom windows. They grew fairly quickly and for the past few years have been big enough to shade the windows all afternoon long. Not only do they add to the landscape, but they also provide valuable shade. A frugal-living double whammy!
Do a curtain call. Keep shades and curtains closed when direct sunlight is hitting the windows. This is a great way to keep the cool air in and the hot sunlight out.
Invest in a programmable thermostat. If you don't have one, get one! They are not very expensive. You can pick up a quality one for around $50. We have a White-Rodgers brand thermostat and have been very happy with it. The cool thing about them (no pun intended) is that you can program them to have your A/C unit turned down when you are not home and then have it click back to your desired temperature shortly before your arrival. I don't recommend having your A/C set to off when you are not home, though, because in the long run you will end up using more power getting your home back to your desired temperature.
Make use of ceiling fans. Clockwise or counterclockwise? That is the question! There is always confusion about which way to run your fans in the summertime to force the air down to give a cooling effect against your skin. The best way to determine this is to look at your fan; you will see that the blades are angled at about 15 degrees. In the summer, you want the part of the blade that is angled higher to be moving forward first. This causes the back end of the blade to push the air down toward you. Stagnant air is much less comfortable than feeling a breeze across your face from a fan. By running your fans this way, you may be able to stand having your A/C set at 78 degrees or higher.
Replace air filters. Dirty air filters restrict air flow and make your entire cooling system less efficient. Replace them monthly during the summer. They are not very expensive and well worth the money, especially if you or your kids suffer from airborne allergies.
Take advantage of tax credits. OK, this won't bring down your body temperature, but I guarantee that it will make you feel better: If you are thinking of doing home improvements that will make your home more energy efficient, you'll want to check out this IRS article for information about tax credits. The federal government will give you tax credits for things like insulation improvements, energy-efficient windows, exterior doors, and metal roofs that meet Energy Star requirements. Worth a look.
So other than making your swimming pool your main residence, how do you keep your cooling bill as low as possible? I know this is only a partial list, so I look forward to more ideas from readers.
About the author: Kyle James owns and operates a website called Rather-Be-Shopping.com, which specializes in online coupons for over 500 stores, organized in 23 shopping categories. He also blogs about frugal living tips, creative ways to save money, and other musings related to the adventures and misadventures of raising three active kids.
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