Welcome to The Cool Down, Hunker's definitive guide for staying cool, calm, and collected all summer long.
Did you know that in the U.S., it's more common to have an air conditioning unit than a garage, dishwasher, or even dining room? In fact, six percent of all electricity produced in the U.S. goes toward residential air conditioning — but like with any luxury, there are costs. Homeowners spend an estimated $11 billion annually on A/C costs, plus air conditioners emit 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year averaging out to about two tons per home. Yikes! So, whether you're interested in saving money on energy costs, you want to help Mother Earth, or just simply don't have an air conditioner, here are some inexpensive and easy ways to stay cool when the weather gets hot.
Install Energy Efficient Window Treatments
According to the Energy.gov, roughly 25-30 percent of unwanted heat comes into your home through windows. To cut the heat, consider installing shades, insulating curtains, or tinted window film on south- and west-facing windows. You could even potentially save up to seven percent, or $45, every year on cooling costs while you're at it. Window treatments are cost-effective, and depending on which one you choose, will virtually pay for themselves in the years to come.
Cook Meals Outside
Become a grillmaster this summer and prepare your meals outdoors! Cooking outside will reduce the heat in your home during the sweltering summer months and give you a chance to break in your grill and that new patio furniture. An added bonus: no kitchen mess, that's a win-win in our book!
Adjust Ceiling Fans to Run Counter-Clockwise
Set ceiling fans in your home to run counter-clockwise on high so air blows down during the spring and summer months to create a cool breeze. Keep blades clean and polished to reduce drag and keep air flowing. To conserve energy, turn fans off when leaving the room; if nobody is there to feel the breeze, is it really cooler?
Opt for Breathable Fabrics for Your Bedroom
Cotton, hemp, and linen are all natural fibers that wick heat and moisture away from the body, keeping you cool. To help you sleep cooler, reconsider your warm weather bedding material — from the mattress to your sheets, and even your pajamas. Ditch the heat-absorbing foam mattress top or pillow, and instead go for the cooling variety.
Strategically Place Outdoor Trees and Plants
While this tip may take some time, the stealthy combo of window shades and some strategically planted foliage outdoors can lower temperatures as much as 25 degrees on a sticky hot day. Plant trees and vines on horizontal trellises, focusing on the east and west sides, to save average households up to $250 in energy costs annually.
Bring Plants Indoors
House plants do their part to clean the air, add fresh oxygen into your home, and cool your space. By releasing water into the air from their leaves, plants cool themselves and the surrounding environment through a process called transpiration. Not only will your home feel cooler with more house plants, they will elevate you space by adding rich color.
Take a Cold Shower
If swimming in a nice, refreshing body of water isn't an option where you live, consider taking a good old-fashioned cold shower to bring down the heat. Unless there's 100 percent humidity, as the water evaporates off of your skin, it will cool you down (until you have to take another cold plunge).
Use a Dehumidifier
There is nothing like summer humidity that leaves you feeling worn and drained. Dehumidifiers suck the hot balmy moisture out of the air in your home, making it much cooler. Pro tip: Use the extracted water from the humidifier to water plants.
Turn on Bathroom Exhaust Fans
Switch on the bathroom exhaust fan to suck out the hot air and allow cool air to replace it. Bathroom exhaust fans are also great at keeping your home moisture-free which will reduce humidity and cool the air.
Open Windows at Night
Take advantage of those breezy summer evenings and open your windows at night to promote a cross-breeze that will help you and your family sleep better. The cooler air will circulate all night, allowing you to start fresh with a cool home in the morning.
Awnings will add a touch of sohpisticaion to your home and help keep it cool in the summer months. Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows. If you live in a cold climate, opt for a retractable awning so you don't lose precious heat in the winter months.