By Raychel Stewart
Signal Staff Writer
With hot nights and even hotter days, summer can be a struggle between staying cool and maintaining an affordable energy bill.
From portable units to home improvement projects, alternative ways are available that will help keep your home as cool as possible and help ease the cost of cooling your home.
Alternative products to keep a space cool
Ceiling fans and regular floor fans are the easiest and cheapest option to cool a house. Since heat rises, ceilings and attics can be the warmest part of a house, so having a ceiling fan will circulate air throughout a room.
Along with smaller fans, whole-house fans can be a better alternative to air conditioning, as they help remove hot air in an attic which can contribute to warmer temperatures in a house, but they require professional installation as an exit point for air to escape is required.
Portable air conditioning units are a good option to cool down a room instead of an entire house or apartment.
“You can take it from room to room,” said Patrick Cosley, general manager of Lowe’s on Bouquet Canyon Road. “It can be a great investment especially when we get those extremely hot nights.”
Swamp coolers are a popular alternative to air conditioning as they use water to cool a room. However, Cosley said swamp coolers are best used in dry conditions instead of humid ones.
Home improvement projects to maintain airflow
Some home improvement projects can also ensure houses or apartments are maintaining an adequate airflow, or are well insulated.
“People often neglect getting insulation checked out,” Cosley said. “It’s recommended to have a specialist come check the insulation in a house every few years, and it’s not as costly as people might assume.”
It can be a money-saver in the long run to have insulated inspected and replaced as it prevents air from escaping.
It’s also beneficial to change air filters every three months, Cosley said. “People always pick the cheapest ones but it might be better in the long run to buy one that’s a little more expensive because it will keep pollutants out of the house.”
Another project which keeps air from escaping is to either have windows replaced or use weather stripping and calking to keep outside air from creeping inside.
Using an air conditioning unit might not be the best way to maintain a cool temperature in a house or apartment, as it could lead to a high electricity bill, but there are ways to ensure air conditioning units are being utilized efficiently to help cut the cost.
How to use air conditioning efficiently, if needed
If the heat becomes too intense, using an air conditioning unit might be needed, but there are efficient ways to use it to ensure energy isn’t being wasted and electricity bills don’t increase unnecessarily.
Servicing an air conditioner annually is just as important as servicing a vehicle, Cosley said. Having it serviced can bring attention to any issues which will lead to units running inefficiently, such as low coolant levels and cleaning out any build up.
“A big issue with summer is that energy demand can be really high which causes the need for a Flex Alert,” said Benjamin Gallagher, media relations adviser at Southern California Edison. “During a state-issued Flex Alert, we encourage our customers to conserve energy by limiting the use of major appliances and setting thermostats to 78 degrees while home and 85 degrees or off while away.”
Gallagher said the most efficient way to cool a home is to turn the air conditioner on during the morning and early afternoon and set it to a comfortable temperature, then turn it off during the late afternoon and evening, which is considered the peak time of energy use.
Once your house is cooled, it will stay cool into the evening, he added.
Keeping blinds closed is also another way to keep houses cool, even after the air conditioner has been turned off. Closing blinds can be a good way to block heat and sunlight and keep the air in a house cool.
“Something people might not realize or think about is how much cooking can heat up a house,” Gallagher said. “We recommend people using a grill outside if they can, since ovens can heat up a house. Even using a microwave can be a better alternative.”
Along with stoves, dryers are another house appliance which can heat up a room quickly, Gallagher said, adding it could be efficient to finish laundry earlier in the day and use a lower heat, or no heat setting, or air-dry clothes if capable.
Deciding to use an air conditioner during the summer can be a battle between comfortability and affordability, but setting a standard for air conditioning use can ease the conflict. The recommended thermostat temperature is 78 degrees, Gallagher said, adding that temperature might be too warm for some. If so, he recommends keeping a houses temperature to your liking and using other appliances, such as fans or smaller, portable air conditioning units to help keep the temperature down.
“Using other things to help keep the house cool can offset the use of an air conditioner,” he said. “But it’s important to also be mindful of turning those appliances off when you leave a room.”