Keep Cool This Summer... And Save Energy Too!

Summer's here and today's savvy home owners are looking for ways to keep cool while keeping energy costs low. Here are suggestions on keeping your home cool during the warm weather months.

Nearly one-fourth of your home's summer heat comes in through your windows. You can reduce this amount by shading your windows from direct sunlight. The most simple solution is to use interior window shades, curtains or blinds, particularly those with a white or reflective backing that won't absorb heat. Regularly lowering the shades when the sun is directly on the window can reduce heat gain through a window by some 25 percent.

Awnings or overhanging eaves (especially on the south side) work well to shelter windows from sunlight. You may prefer eaves because they don't block desired winter sunlight as the winter sun is lower. Solar shade screens will block out up to 75 percent of the sun's rays without obscuring your vision. Louvered sun screens are also recommended in warm climates.

If the time has come to replace your glass windows, consider Low-E glass which can minimize unwanted heat. Low-E glass also blocks out more than 60 percent of the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays which can damage carpeting and furniture.

If you prefer not to add to or alter your home's windows, consider planting a tree or shrub that will shade your window. Select a fast-growing or mature plant for cost effectiveness. It's a good idea to consult with a local nursery to make certain your choice is practical. This type of natural shading can cut interior heat by 10 to 15 degrees.

Windows are not the only source of heat gain. The walls and roof absorb heat as well. On a hot day, your roof surface may reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit and interior attic temperatures may reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Consider installing a radiant barrier, a special type of reinforced foil that is stapled to rafters or laid over attic insulation. Foil barriers can block about 90 percent of the incoming radiant heat to the attic insulation. Radiant barriers could save 10 percent on your utility bill.

When re-roofing, choose light colored shingles since they absorb less solar heat. Consider light colors when selecting siding or exterior paint colors.

Air leaks can result in significant heat gain during the summer months. Look for such unwanted air passages around doors and windows and where electrical, plumbing and gas enter. Caulk around windows and doors and where piping and wiring run into the home. Add insulation to the attic floor or between the roof rafters. Consult a local insulation specialist to determine the recommended amount of insulation in your area.

Until the outdoor air temperature reaches 85 degrees Fahrenheit, circulating the air inside your home can have a remarkable cooling effect. "Open doors and windows at sundown and pull in cooler outside air with fans. Open adjacent windows for cross ventilation. Close the house in the morning to retain the cool air, unless it's humid outside. In humid weather, avoid opening the windows at night when the air temperature may be lower, but the moisture content higher.

Use room fans to move air around. Portable fans cost less than $.05 per hour to operate, ceiling fans a penny or two more. Whole house fans installed in a hallway ceiling or attic, can move 3,000 to 6,000 cubic feet of air per minute, thereby quickly replacing warm indoor air with cooler outdoor air. These fans can eliminate the need for an air conditioner during certain times of the year and, for maximum efficiency, can be wired to automatically turn off when your air conditioner comes on.

While you can't control the heat produced by the sun, you can reduce the amount of heat produced indoors. Cooking, bathing and using appliances all produce heat. Use appliances in the morning and evening hours and avoid heating your stove if possible. A microwave oven not only saves heat, but utility costs as well. A very hot day is a great time to use that outdoor grill.

When buying appliances, look for energy efficient models, especially for those appliances that run frequently. Consider moving your freezer or washer and dryer to non-air conditioned space. Following these steps should help you feel cooler this summer.