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Prepare your home to beat the heat this summer

Stay cool while spending less

During the sweltering summer months people nationwide crank up their air conditioners in an effort to stay cool. In the struggling economy, the Energy Education Council wants everyone to get the most for their energy dollars. Be sure your house is ready to beat the heat this year by following a few guidelines.

“Most of these suggestions require little effort or cost,” Energy Education Council Director Molly Hall said. “The investment is well worth it with added comfort and savings.”

  • Check the insulation. According to EnergyStar insulation is usually measured using the R-Value. R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value, the more effective it will be to beat the heat. The level of insulation recommended for your area can be found at EnergyStar.gov. If you are lacking the recommended insulation, you can add more right on top of the old insulation. However, don’t put a vapor barrier between the layers. Be sure the insulation doesn’t block vents or cover exhaust fans.
  • Ventilate the attic. When the outside temperature is in the 90s, your attic can easily reach 140 degrees. Adequately sized vents and/or an attic fan can help keep hot air from building up.
  • Get the air conditioner ready. Shut off power to the unit before cleaning it. On the inside, wash or vacuum cleanable filters; replace disposable ones. Outside, clear leaves and other debris away from the condensing unit. Hose off any accumulated dirt.
  • Put a timer or programmable thermostat on your air conditioner. Leave it on a higher temperature while you’re away, and set it to cool the house half an hour before you return home.
  • Install awnings over windows exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Consider installing ceiling fans. On moderately warm days, fans can circulate enough air to keep you comfortable without air conditioning. Even on hotter days when you use the air conditioner, you can set your thermostat higher and save.

“Even in summer, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to stay within your budget,” Hall said. “Energy Education Council recommends a few easily achieved cost saving tips.”

  • Open windows and doors and let outside air cool your house on moderate days, and be sure to keep them closed when you’re operating the air conditioner.
  • Avoid unnecessary trips in and out of the house, especially on the most sultry days. Heat and humidity come in each time you open the door.
  • Keep the sun out of your house. Close blinds, shades or draperies during the hottest part of the day. Consider planting fast-growing trees and shrubs near your home but away from power line, to provide shade.
  • Set lamps, TV sets, and other heat-producing devices away from the air conditioner thermostat. Heat from the lamp could cause the thermostat to read higher temperature and keep the air conditioner running more than necessary.

“One secret to getting the best efficiency from your air conditioner is to be sure the maximum amount of air moves across the coils,” Hall said. “Make sure air can flow freely over the inside and outside coils.”

  • Shut off power to the unit before cleaning it. Outside, clear away leaves and debris. Inside, clean or replace filters. If you can reach the fan blades, be sure the power is turned off and then dust them - if they’re filled with lint they can’t push as much air. If your air conditioner doesn’t give you as much cooling as it has in the past, call a cooling professional to inspect and tune it up.
  • If you’re shopping for a new unit, check the efficiency rating, or SEER. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the air conditioner. Consider buying an Energy Star approved unit, which uses around 14 percent less energy than traditional air conditioning units for central air and at least 10 percent less for room units. Energy Star and local utilities are offering many incentives to upgrade appliances and insulation this year. Be sure to visit www.EnergyStar.gov/taxcredits and contact your local utility for more information.

“Like a car that gives you more miles per gallon, an air conditioner with a higher SEER gives you more cooling comfort for each energy dollar,” Hall said.

For more information, visit: energyedcouncil.org.