Do you feel it in the air? Believe it or not, summer is on its way to Chicagoland — and plenty of people are excited. With warm breezes, sunny skies, and more reasons to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors, the pleasant weather can bring some much-needed relief from those chilly Chicago winters.
With that said, however, often those pleasant warm breezes can turn into sweltering heat in no time.
Around our area, people have found all sorts of solutions to beat that stifling summer heat. We open windows, we head out to the rooftops — but, more often than not, we also rely on our air conditioning systems to help keep us cool, which can cause summer utility bills to skyrocket along with the thermometer.
So, what can you do to keep your home cool while still staying energy efficient — and maybe even lowering your summertime energy bills? Here are seven solutions that can help keep you and your family cool, without sacrificing sustainability or running up an enormous utility bill:
1.) Get the right air conditioner
Not all air conditioning systems are built equal — and not every unit will be the right fit for your home. Before the summer heat settles in, talk to an expert about the cooling systems and upgrades that might be best suited to your home. For instance? In some cases, homeowners will go out and purchase a window unit for every room. This can be wasteful, and may not actually bring the cooling sensation you’re looking for. It may be possible to be strategic, and situate a portable or window air conditioner in a central room, which can help spread the cool air to the rest of the house. In other cases, you may want to look into upgrading your central air system to a more modern, energy efficient model. Meanwhile, an expert can check your vents and ducts to make sure that they’re operating at peak efficiency.
2.) Strategically use fans to assist the AC
If you have ceiling fans or standing fans, use these as much as possible before firing up the air conditioning, if you can. These use less energy, and can help you save big time on your utility bills. In fact, a report from the Department of Energy suggests that running a ceiling fan can be enough to let you increase the temperature of your thermostat up to 4 degrees higher, without experiencing any change in comfort. Meanwhile, setting up fans at different windows can help you create a cross-breeze effect or thermal chimney, allowing you to pull in cooler air in and exhaust warmer air out. Here’s a great guide to these energy efficient methods, courtesy of Popular Mechanics.
3.) Tend to your windows
Your windows are your home’s first line of defense — but they’re often easy to overlook. Just like cold air can come through those small spaces and minor cracks around the windows in the winter, the cold air you’re generating inside your home can escape to the outside when the summer months heat up — leaving you cranking the AC, with nothing to show for it. In addition, hot direct sunlight can beam in through the glass and heat up the room. At the start of the warm weather season, you might want to give your windows a quick look, to see if they’re sealed fully — the better to keep in your perfectly conditioned air. It might also help to invest in new curtains or blinds. Thermal shades, blackout curtains, and interior shutters can all help minimize the harsh effects of concentrated summer sun.
4.) Check your ducts and vents
If you have an HVAC system installed, the network of ducts is responsible for carrying hot and cold air through your home. It’s hard to overstate the importance of your home’s ductwork. If not sufficiently cared for (or, perhaps, not quite successfully installed in the first place) your ducts can lead to plenty of cool air escaping, adding to your discomfort while also driving up your utility bills. The fix may be as simple as sealing the ducts, or as complex as replacing parts of your system. It’s also important to tend to your vents before the warm weather settles in! Make sure that all of your AC vents are clean and clear, and that you regularly clean your filter of unwanted dirt and debris, which can stifle the airflow through your home.
5.) Turn off and unplug where you can
To help conserve power, and keep your home cooler, think about how you can use electricity mindfully. Turning off lights when they’re not needed is a major first step. At the same time, if you haven’t replaced your bulbs in a while, you may want to look into updating your old incandescent lights. Incandescent lights use more heat; in fact, they expel 90% of the energy they use as thermal heat! Newer light bulbs run cooler, and can help conserve electricity. Meanwhile, remember that lots of appliances give off heat. If possible, try to avoid using heat-expelling devices like TVs, computers, and washer/dryer units on particularly warm days. Turning off and unplugging your devices can help you beat the heat and avoid unnecessary energy use.
6.) Invest in tech to help keep you cool
There’s a growing industry of home goods designed to help you stay cool and save energy. For instance, are you one to toss and turn in an uncomfortably heated sleep? There are numerous ways to help keep your bed cool and give you the relief you’ve been looking for, ranging from bamboo sheets to personal cooling products, such as The Chillow.
In addition, you may want to look into installing some green upgrades, ranging from energy efficient lighting, to power-saving energy strips, to low-flow shower heads. There are all sorts of green products that can help you effortlessly cut down on your consumption, while still helping you stay cool.
7.) Properly operate your thermostat
When it comes to operating your thermostat efficiently, there are a few tried-and-true rules of thumb to live by. For instance, during the summer, you may want to set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible. If you can, try to set your home’s temperature so that it matches the outside temperature as closely as possible. This can help lower your cooling costs significantly. A programmable thermostat can also help regulate your home’s temperature, making it easier for you to automatically raise the temperature when you’re away and lower it when you return and need a break from the heat. You can find more savvy ways to operate and maximize your thermostat here.
What to Expect with Windy City Home Inspection
Whether you’re buying a property, selling a property, or just want to know how to maintain your property, Windy City Home Inspection has an inspection for you. With Windy City Home Inspection, you can expect a thorough, diligent inspection that never cuts corners and always makes sure your structure is sound and up to date.
When searching for the right home inspector, it’s important to find someone you can trust — and that’s why we are here for you. The inspectors at Windy City Home Inspection, Inc. are licensed by the State of Illinois, certified, and insured. Each home inspection is backed by our Warranty and Protection Plan. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on our superior customer service. If you ever have questions, even years after your home inspection, we will be here to answer them — even if it means returning to your home.
At Windy City Home Inspection, Inc., we perform inspections to the highest standards – yours. Backed by a consulting team with more than 60 years of experience, Windy City Home Inspection is committed to excellence. Have a question? Let us help.