If this Kansas City summer feels unusually hot to you, you’re not imagining things. By the second week of August, we’d already had more days above 90 than we did in all of last summer, with half of the hottest season still ahead of us.
With many of us spending more time in our homes than in a normal year, we’re all more aware of the hot spots and energy inefficiencies than ever before.
For the sake of your budget, your comfort, and your sanity, here are ten tips to help keep your home cool in this brutal Missouri summer.
Check Your Ducts
Your air conditioner may well be producing enough cool air to keep your home comfortable, but losing the battle against summer heat because of leaky ducts. Damaged or misaligned ductwork can leak cool air in inefficient spots before it ever reaches carefully placed vents, or pull in hot air from unconditioned places, making your air conditioner work harder than it needs to.
Small duct repairs are cheap and easy to do yourself. More extensive damage may require a call to a heating and cooling professional, but tuning up the system that delivers cool air is much less expensive than investing in a new unit to produce it.
When was the last time you looked carefully at the places your home leaks treated air? Even the best insulation degrades with age, and is subject to wear and tear from pests and simple time.
Adding insulation where it has deteriorated can give your existing air conditioner a fighting chance against this intense summer heat, and takes as little as an afternoon and a trip to the local hardware store to complete.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 30 percent of what we spend on heating and cooling is lost through energy inefficient windows. Replacing all of the windows in your house with newer, better-sealed models is, of course, the ultimate solution to cooling inefficiency, and will pay off for years to come.
And replacing them all isn’t always necessary. If your home has one or two large, statement windows that let in brilliant summer light, they may also be letting out precious cool air. Swapping out those few for more efficient models could dramatically change your energy bills, and your daily comfort.
Windows, of course, aren’t your home’s biggest openings to the outside. Yet few homeowners consider the role their doors are playing in home cooling.
Entry doors, and, in particular, sliding doors, are often the site of significant air leaks. Replacement doors can enhance your home’s curb appeal and make cooling it a simpler task. And replacement doors may not be necessary—simply refreshing the insulation around entry doors can make your air conditioner more effective.
Change Your Air Filters
Air conditioners work extremely hard in mid-summer heat. They work best when pushing cooled air through clean, new filters. Simply replacing your home’s air filters on a regular schedule can make the home much cooler, and prolong the life of your heating and cooling systems.
Clear Around Your Air Conditioner
Vines, weeds, and other debris around an air conditioning unit can stress its components. Keeping eight inches or so of clearance on all sides of the unit is a simple, free task easily done in minutes that can make your air conditioner significantly more efficient.
Close Drapes and Blinds in Empty Rooms
We tend to think of our homes as a single unit to be kept at a constant temperature, but the truth is, we’re rarely using every room at the same time. You probably want to let healthy, mood-boosting light into the rooms you’re using, but closing blinds and curtains in empty rooms can help block some of the sun’s summer heat.
Close Vents in Unused Rooms
Similarly, closing off vents in empty rooms can help direct cool air to the occupied spaces in your home. This is doubly true with basements, where temperatures are consistent regardless of treated air. Close off vents in spaces your family rarely uses.
One simple trick to keep your home cool is not to heat it. Grilling outdoors is not just refreshing, and a fun challenge for your culinary skills. It also lets you turn on a heat source where it’s already hot, rather than introducing new heat to the spaces you’re trying to keep cool.
Use Ceiling Fans
Strangely enough, ceiling fans don’t change a room’s temperature. But they change how we perceive its temperature, as the moving air across our skin feels cooler than still air. Installing a few in key rooms, or simply making use of the ones you already have, can help you stay cool on the hottest of days.