Keeping Your Home Cool and Your Energy Costs Low During the Dog Days of Summer

Here’s how you can keep your home cool and your energy costs low!

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Have you ever wondered why we refer to the hottest days of the year as “the dog days”? Many people think that it’s because the weather’s not fit for a dog, or it’s so steamy that dogs can’t do anything but lie around and pant, or even that the extreme temps cause dogs to go mad. Yet this expression, which was first translated from Latin to English some 500 years ago, actually references the position of the earth relative to the summertime sky. During this period, the star named Sirius – aka the Dog Star – rises and falls at the same time as the sun does.

It hasn’t anything to do with heat, and in fact, astronomers say that because of the way the earth rotates relative to the heavens, the dog days are constantly, albeit incrementally, changing. Some13,000 years from now, the dog days will actually occur in mid-winter. Regardless of where the stars are, those of us for whom July andare indeed scorchers need to find ways to cool off. At the same time, we don’t want to rack up astronomical energy bills from running the AC all day. Read on for some tips to keeping your cool and keeping your expenditures down!

1. Make Sure Your AC is Running Efficiently

Central air conditioning is a marvel of modern convenience. Not much feels better than stepping into a wonderfully cool house after spending time outdoors in 90° weather. But in order to maximize your air conditioner’s output – and lifespan – a little maintenance is necessary. Give filters and other elements a regular checkup. A dirty filter will make your unit work harder, so keeping the temperature low will result in higher energy bills. The same goes for window units or portable air conditioners. Keep them in tip-top shape so that you can keep cool. Whenever possible, invest in EnergyStar appliances. On average, they offer about 20% more energy efficiency than older, outdated models.

2. Program Them — Even from Afar

Many HVAC systems come with programming features already. Add-on programmable thermostats are relatively inexpensive, and you’ll recoup their cost quickly in energy savings. Or look into smart home systems, which will allow you to turn on the AC just before you arrive at home – or turn the unit off if you’re unexpectedly delayed. Heating and cooling experts also recommend that temperatures should be just cool enough for your family to feel comfortable. While it’s certainly your prerogative to keep your house like a meat locker, you’ll pay through the nose for it.

3. Put Your Windows to Work

Do you live in a climate that sees dramatic fluctuations between cool night temps and hot daytime ones? If so, turn off the AC and open the windows. This will allow hot air to escape and cool breezes to enter. When the sun is bearing down on your house during the daytime hours, keep your blinds or draperies shut tight. Better yet, hang blackout curtains. They not only block heat and light from entering, but will also help muffle the sounds of a noisy neighborhood just outside your door. You can’t eliminate the sun’s rays from shining on your home, but you can make sure it doesn’t slip in through the windows.

4. If You’re a Homeowner, Think Ahead

Plant trees on the south and west sides of the home. They won’t help you feel cooler this summer, or even next summer, but in time, as shade trees grow, they can make a tremendous difference in how hot your house gets. Planting a shade tree near the AC unit can be particularly effective in helping the system work more efficiently. Just be certain that it’s not too close, and clear off any fallen leaves or debris periodically.

5. Press Fans into Service

Just because you can cool your home with the touch of a button doesn’t mean that fans are unnecessary. Using fans in conjunction with central air boots the cooling power and the energy savings. Position the fan so that it is directly in front of or below a vent, so that it can push the cool air further into the room and throughout the house. Whenever it’s cool enough to use only the fan, do so. Many homeowners find that using the AC briefly, then switching to a fan to circulate, is just as effective as running the AC constantly.

6. Yes, You Can Be Comfortable and Not Break the Bank

It’s not necessary to have the air conditioner cranked all the way up (or would that be down?) in order to relax and enjoy the dog days, or any time in the summer. Having a few smart tricks up your sleeve can ensure that your energy bills are as low as they can go.

What are some of your favorite ways to keep cool when the temperatures soar? Do you use fans along with AC? Any advice for folks who don’t have central air? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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