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Proper Green: 6 AC-Free Ways to Stay Cool

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Here are 6 tips to keep cool, save energy, and cut costs without changing your habits or remodeling your house.

Dear Proper Green,

Any tips on how to cool my home?

-Duane J., VA



Dear Duane,

If you run hot like I do, summer can be the worst for keeping cool while saving money and being at least somewhat environmentally savvy — the U.S. Department of Energy says that for every degree you work to keep your house cooler than 78 degrees, you increase your AC bill by about 8%. It’s not impossible to cool down and save money and energy, though! Try out these easy, no-remodeling-necessary tips, so you can reduce the amount of time you keep the AC on:
  • Turn on the fan. Fans require less energy than an AC to use, and still do the job right. Fans move air, and the sweeping of air over the body is what cools you down. Just be sure to unplug the fan when it’s not in use, so you can avoid the energy vampires!
  • Cross-ventilate. Open windows on both sides of your room or house, so that air can flow from one side of the house to another — it’s like helping to encourage a natural breeze.
  • Cross-ventilate the other way, too. If you have windows that open from the top and bottom, open both sides a little bit. Similarly, if you have transom windows above windows or doors, keep those open along with your standard-height windows. Heat rises, so it can escape out the top opening while cool air ventilates through the bottom.
  • Enjoy the shade. By blocking out the harshest rays and brightest lights, you prevent heat from coming in, and therefore require less energy to cool yourself, so turn off the lights and make use of your blinds and shutters!
  • Don’t cook or clean. Heat from the oven and dishwasher warms permeates the kitchen, and sometimes even the surrounding rooms. Use this time as an excuse to sit back and relax!
  • Play a trick on yourself. This might only work for the strongest-willed, but it’s worth a shot. If you think cool, you’re more likely to feel cool. Surround yourself with things that will make you aware of a chill —drink more cold water, and tune into that wind chime (it’s only making noise because of that pleasant breeze!).

How do you keep cool during the summer months? Share your tips in the comments below!

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Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more

  • becky p. 1 year ago
    We use our basement family room more often during the summer. It is naturally cooler down there.
  • Josephine A. 2 years ago
    I set my AC just high enough to get rid of the humidity, usually 76-78. I don't want to feel cold when coming in from outside. I also dry clothes outside whenever I can, love the smell of them, when hung outside. Also grill a lot of save on gas. Keep blinds closed to keep out the sun in the summer too, helps keep the house cooler.
  • John G. 2 years ago
    I live in Texas also... We were watching good morning Texas I was told to get a dehumidifier ... We did now I can keep the thermostat higher by 3 degrees and it feels cool in the house, great idea
  • Denise C. 2 years ago
    I live in Texas so we have lots of tricks to minimize energy consumption during the summer. Last summer, we bought four energy efficient window units for hundreds of dollars, instead of repairing our central air for thousands of dollars. Eventually, we will repair it but this strategy gives us years to save up and allows us to buy out of season, when the prices drop. Window units also allow us to fully control where energy is being consumed. When I'm home alone, I stay in front room and leave all bedroom units off. When we go to bed, l leave front unit off. Hang clothes on a line, instead of using dryer. Some few heavier items that feel stiff when dried on the line, can get 10 minutes in the dryer to soften them up but I won't use dryer during peak hours (11 am - 6 pm). Also, using the logic that heat escapes through head, hands and feet - I leave all 3 of these areas uncovered... and will also put a cold towel on back of my neck. I play the "trick" game until I can't..and then I take a cold shower before I even think about adjusting the thermostat. Use crock pot instead of oven to minimize amount of heat being produced. Eat cold foods when possible. Drink lots of cold drinks. We reward ourselves when our bills are less than last years amount for the same month.
  • Shirley G. 2 years ago
    No overhead lights during the day, and only lamps where needed at night. Hang clothes to dry, no dryers
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