Stay Cool, Save Energy, Cut Spending
There are a number of ways to save energy and cut spending this coming summer, so I thought I would get a jump on them and give readers time to budget the more costly ones. The best part is that none of them require you or your family to suffer, pant like dogs and perspire right through clean t-shirts until October sets in with cooler temperatures.
Some of these energy-curbing methods are short-term. Others are long-term. Some offer instant gratification while others demand patience – up to a decade in some cases. They are, however, worth the wait, unless you absolutely, positively know you are not going to be living in your home 10 years from now. Even then, what about the benefits to a future owner (benefits that could also enhance the resale value of your home)?
Short-term, buy some reusable water bottles and keep them filled with water and refrigerated for maximum cool. Drink the water, but also saturate a washcloth and put it across the back of your neck or on the top of your head. This old-fashioned cool-down method is surprising effective, even for those teens and adults firmly into the computer age. It works even better if you have a fan blowing on you; just don’t drip on your keyboard.
Also buy a number of spray mist bottles. These are excellent for taking the edge off the heat one body at a time, and allow you to turn the AC up to 80 without serious mental and emotional meltdown. Give the extras to your children and allow them to chase and squirt each other around the family room, bedroom or other room whose contents can’t be damaged by an occasional spritz of water. If your children are under 10 (and sometimes even if they are over), this is the most fun they can have without giving them paint-ball guns or a license to throttle one another!
And don’t forget the new and highly energy-efficient programmable thermostats, which can keep your temperatures electronically controlled to the nth degree. Best of all, the handyman in your family (or handyperson, if you need to be absolutely PC) can install it in half a day. There are a number of wires, but they simply connect to the old wires inside the wall under your old thermostat. Just be sure to turn off the electricity, read the instructions carefully, and if necessary mark wires with colored craft tape or nail polish in a pinch.
Long-term, you want to plant trees. They don’t have to be huge, just tall enough to throw some serious shade on your siding, windows and roof. Planted on the southern exposure, they could – after 10 years growth – cut summer cooling bills by half (if you also implement some of the short-term “fixes”).
Install a new roof. Make it cool. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, and the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, have some superb information on “cool roofs”, covering not only styles (very steep, or gently sloping roofs) but types of materials, from metal to reflective asphalt shingles, both of which have high solar reflectance, or albedo, that reduces heat gain through the roof and into the building below.
The EPA even offers price estimates; $0.75–$1.50 per square foot for cool-roof coatings, while single-ply cool roof membranes typically cost from $1.50–$3.00 per square foot. The cost of cool roof coatings vs. standard roofing materials is typically 5 to 10 cents per square foot more. A built-up roof with a cool coating – as a substitute for smooth asphalt or aluminum coating – offers a channel for heated air to flow out from under the roof’s surface (known as a radiant barrier) and costs from 10 to 20 cents per foot.
The cost will put a bit of a ding in your bank account in the short-term. Long-term, however, it can save you up to 50 cents per square foot over the average cooling season, which is a hefty chunk of change for most homeowners bowed under the weight of energy bills.
Install ceiling fans, not just in the living and dining rooms, but in every room including baths (exhaust fans pull hot, moist air to the outside but do little to cool bathers). With ceiling fans operating in a reverse position – pulling heated air up – you will not only feel cooler, you will be cooler as the fan pulls heat from your boundary layer (from the skin several inches into your surroundings). The effect can be as much as 4 degrees cooler, and is most noticeable in the beginning of summer or the beginning of autumn, according to one heating and cooling expert.