Money Saving Monday Tip #3 – 7 Tips to Help Keep Your House Cool

By glblguy

Hot!

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Here in North Carolina, it’s hot. This time of the year I am looking for any and everything I can do to help keep the house cool and keep my power bill down. Our house is 2200 square feet, and our bill last month was $150.00. Not bad really considered how much the A/C unit runs.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your house cool:

Make sure your air registers are pointing into the room. When contractors install the air registers in homes, they are frequently put in backwards. Before the summer, I checked mine and all but one were installed backwards. Air registers should be installed so that when you adjust the airflow, you can adjust it to blow into the room. Adjust all of your air registers to blow the air towards the center of the room. If they are on backwards, remove the two screws pull the unit out and re-install. You may have to tug on them a bit as they often get stuck due to the paint.

Change your filters monthly. Again, it’s all about air flow. Clogged, dirty filters block normal air flow and reduce a system’s efficiency significantly. Make sure you change your filters monthly to get optimal air flow through your A/C unit. The more air the A/C unit can move, the less it will need to run. There are many different varieties of filters, from dirt cheap to very expensive. I use and recommend a middle of the road filter. The really cheap one’s are useless and would be lucky to filter out your cat, and the really good one’s while definitely more effective are overkill. I generally select something in the $7 – $10 range.

Check your outside condenser unit. The portion of your A/C unit that is outside is called the condenser unit. You should minimize dirt and debris near or on the the unit. Keep the area around the condenser unit clean and remove any debris. Foliage within two feet of the condenser should be trimmed to allow for adequate air flow. Also, check the fins and make sure they aren’t bent and are allowing maximum air flow. I recommend using an Air Conditioner Fin Comb to clean and straighten out the fins.

Seal any duct leaks. While a proper check of your duct system is better left to a professional, a quick visit to the attic to check for obvious duct leaks never hurts. Recent studies indicate that 10% to 30% of the conditioned air in an average central air conditioning system escapes from the ducts. To check for leaks, run your hands along the ducting feeling for areas where cold air is escaping. If your attic is as hot as mine, finding cool air isn’t too hard. Use duct tape to patch the leak until a professional can be brought it to correctly fix the problem. Your system should be cleaned and checked for leaks once a year.

Use Digital Thermostats. I installed Hunter digital thermostats a couple of years ago to automatically adjust the temperature at different times of the day. I have two units(one for upstairs and one for downstairs), and adjust the temperature based on time of the day. I keep the house cooler at night, and warmer during the day. I also keep the downstairs cooler during the day, and the upstairs cooler at night.

Keep your blinds closed. Keeping your blinds closed is pretty obvious, but I am surprised by the number of houses I drive by and the sun is blasting on the front of their house and the blinds are open. The concept here is pretty basic, not allowing sun into your house keeps the air inside your house cooler. This both keeps the house cooler and keeps your AC unit from working as hard.

Use fans. While contrary to popular belief, fans don’t actually cool the air down, but they do make you feel cooler. We run our ceiling fans and have a few cheap box fans we use to circulate the air. Our bonus room doesn’t stay as cool as the rest of the house, so we put a box fan at the door to pull cool air in from the rest of the house.

What suggestions do you have? Any tips for beating the heat?

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15 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Money Saving Monday Tip #3 – 7 Tips to Help Keep Your House Cool”

  1. Randy Peterman Says:

    At our house in Colorado we have a swamp cooler. The first year we were in our house we were miserable because we simply didn’t know how to use it. Once some neighbors explained the process we started to make better progress on cooling. We have found that the biggest issues we’ve run into so far are the following:
    1) We need to keep the doors in the hallway where the swamp cooler is located closed unless someone is in there, since most of the pressure comes out through the vent in that hallway the open doors to bedrooms that aren’t in use kills the pressure and reduces the amount of air moving through the house
    2) Communicate about where the exit windows are :) My wife and I have had exit window conflicts where two or more exit windows are open too wide and so the air pressure is too greatly dissipated. That means that we don’t get things cooled down in any of the locations :)

    We also spent some money last year (around $350.00) adding more insulation in our attic and adding more ventilation ducts so as to reduce the heat trapped in the attic space. That’s made a very large difference for us. Of course our house was built in the 70′s and the previous owners didn’t touch that part of things.

  2. eve Says:

    Great tips, one think we have done is to cover any unused windows- with the dreaded aluminum foil. It may look like crap from the outside, but we live in a mobile home subdivision temporarily while looking into purchasing a home, so having it cost less to live her and being able to save for the ‘real house’ is much more important to us than how it looks- and it works- it is an average of 15 degrees cooler in the house now that we did that!

  3. glblguy Says:

    @Randy – Had to do a little research as I have never heard of a swamp cooler (For others that might be the same boat…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporative_cooler). The link will help explain the “Exit Window” problem too :-)
    We have considered getting an attic van to help remove the trapped heat. Anybody have experience with them?

    @eve – Thanks! We go camping a lot and see people with window covers on their RVs that have foil on them, so it must work! I agree, who cars how it looks if it works and saves money…15 degrees is huge!

    Thanks for the tips guys!

  4. Randy Peterman Says:

    For the record the attic fan is one solution where you may have to figure out electrical needs. There are newer solar attic fans that will operate without you needing to run power to them, but you’ll still need to figure out how to handle the thermostat.

    The reason that we added more vents into the attic were two-fold:
    1) The vents were at two levels, one level to let cooler air in and the second level to let hotter air out near the top.
    2) No need to worry about electrical or thermostat issues – its completely reliant on physics.

    This has the disadvantage of possibly needing more vents all along your roof line, but the vents are often much less expensive than an attic fan. The other disadvantage is that if during the winters you’re getting nailed by a storm the vents work the same: any warmth from your attic space is more likely to escape through the vents (but the insulation that you have should be thick enough to compensate for this).

  5. glblguy Says:

    @Randy – Thanks for the info Randy. I’ll have to look into both the solar fan and the duel vent options.

  6. CR Says:

    Also, buying a house with old growth trees on the property helps immensely. The shade from large, old trees over the house is the best home cooler I know of. (Note, this does not include fir or pine trees! Those are terrible, the sap gets everywhere)

  7. glblguy Says:

    @CR – Great point. We have a lot of old growth trees around our house and agree they make a huge difference.

    As for pine trees, being on the east coast I don’t want pine trees as I’ve seen way too many snap and land on houses and cars during hurricanes!

    Thanks for dropping by!

  8. Sam Says:

    Try this one too:

    http://lifehacker.com/software/diy/make-your-own-air-conditioner-181510.php

    Cheers!
    Sam
    http://www.flipbrownguy.com

  9. glblguy Says:

    @Sam – I saw this, great idea and thanks for posting the link!

  10. Make Friends, Earn Money Says:

    This is a really well written article. Really appreciated the advice the info about keeping the blinds closed is absolutely right and yet it’s amazing how often it’s over looked. Thanks for posting, have just discovered your blog.

  11. Jeremy Says:

    Great article and great site! I finally set aside some time to look through it and you clearly dedicate a lot of well-spent time into helping others. The scripture-based perspective you provide is a breath of fresh air.

    I never thought to check the direction of the registers, great idea! One issue we ran into with a single-zone system in our old townhouse was that the upstairs was always SO hot compared to the downstairs. One trick that helped a bit was to cover the air return downstairs with white poster board. The reason for this was that the A/C unit was located about 5 feet from the downstairs air return so when the A/C unit kicked on most of the air was pulled from the downstairs instead of upstairs (path of least resistance). So by covering up the downstairs air return it forced most of the hot air to be pulled from the *upstairs* air return. One other issue that contributes to high temps upstairs is keeping doors closed. It’s all about air flow in order to cool down the house and if you close all your doors during the day or while you sleep it severely decreases air flow and keeps the hot air trapped inside each room. We also installed an attic exhaust fan which contributed to the high temps upstairs.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on programmable thermostats. I see here that you set a program to fluctuate the temperature, but I’ve read some people that think it’s more efficient to leave the house at a constant temp to keep the A/C unit from having to work “overtime” when it needs to, say, drop the temperature from 78 to 72 when you get home from work. Just curious.

    Thanks again, I’ll be adding this to my Google Reader feed list :)

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