Keep your cool this summer with tips from SmarterHouse

Can you keep your cool, even in the middle of summer? Summer officially starts Friday, June 21, heralding the hottest months of the year. Staying comfortable doesn’t have to mean upping your energy usage. We spoke with Jennifer Amann, director of ACEEE’s buildings program, to get her tips and tricks for beating the heat without high energy bills.

How do you fight the heat while staying energy efficient?

I let my smart thermostat do its job by setting it and forgetting it. Recommended summer settings are 78°F when at home and 83°F or higher when away.

We also use ceiling fans to help stay cool. The fan makes it feel a few degrees cooler than the thermostat setting. This is particularly nice for sleeping on hot, humid nights as we have here in the mid-Atlantic.

For those of us who can’t take on large DIY projects or renovations, what are some small steps we can take to save energy?

Use your shades, blinds, or other window coverings to reduce heat gain. Keep them closed on sunny days, especially if you aren’t home to enjoy the view anyway.

LED lights save energy and release less heat into the room, helping you stay cool and reducing the load on your air conditioner. LED bulbs cost a little more upfront but pay for themselves very quickly in energy savings.

Sign up for any peak response or energy savings day programs offered by your utility. Through these programs, you are paid to let the utility cycle off your air conditioner on the hottest days when the utility grid is most stressed. Put those savings to use by investing them in LEDs or other small efficiency investments or save them up to offset the costs of larger projects.  

What are some ways that people waste energy in the summer without knowing it?

Doing things around the house that make the air conditioner work harder like cooking, running the dishwasher, or running the clothes dryer during the hottest times of the day. These activities add heat to your living space, increasing the load on the air conditioner. Try eating cold meals or grilling outside during the summer and run those appliances overnight. Many appliances have delayed start settings that can help with this.

Running ceiling fans in unoccupied rooms. Ceiling fans help occupants feel cooler by moving air across the skin. They don’t actually cool the air, so running them in unoccupied rooms just wastes energy.

What is your favorite summer activity to beat the heat?

Swimming! Preferably in the ocean, but I’m happy to jump in any pool or swimming hole I can find. Couple that with an icy cold beverage and I’m in heaven!