We have it pretty good here in Colorado, especially during the summer. When the rest of the country is sweltering in 90-degree heat and 80% humidity, even our hottest days are bearable thanks to low humidity and cool evenings. That combination lets us put nature to work for us without being slaves to expensive air conditioning.
Here are some things you can do to cut down on your summer cooling bill:
Keep Hot Air Out
Our bright Colorado sunshine is a mixed blessing. Allowed to stream in unchecked, it can turn enclosed spaces like cars and buildings into heat traps. Windows become radiators, so blocking the sun out keeps the heat from flowing into rooms.
The best place to start is outside. Shade trees, awnings, pergolas, anything that blocks the sun from striking your windows will keep the heat from intruding.
The second line of defense is your windows themselves. Low-E double- or triple-pane windows trap the heat between the glass. Adding solar-control window films adds UV protection for your fabrics and reduces solar heat gain. It can be a less expensive solution for large expanses of glass that aren’t shaded.
Finally, drapes and blinds trap heat near and prevent walls, floors, and furnishings from heating up. Even sheer drapes trap heat while letting light in. Louvered blinds let you control the amount of light while trapping at least some of the heat.
Bring Cool Air In
Turn off your air conditioner and open your house up in the evening. If you have good cross-ventilation, that may be all you need, especially if you’re away during the day. You can increase the flow of cool air with a box fan placed strategically in a window or next to a screened door. Facing it out will force warm air out and draw cool air in from the other open windows; facing it in will force cool air in and warm air out. Even better, a whole house fan will move large amounts of warm air out and cool off a house quickly.
Then trap that cool air in come morning by turning off the fan and closing the windows. Even on hot days your air conditioner will at least start out ahead of the game.
Keep the Air Moving
Even if you don’t like the strong breezes of fans, the subtle movements of a ceiling fan keep air circulating enough to make you feel cooler. We perspire constantly, even in winter, and as air moves across our bodies, that moisture evaporates, creating a cooling effect. It’s the wind-chill effect you hear about in the winter, but it happens in summer, too, as long as the humidity isn’t too high, which isn’t often an issue in Colorado. A whole house fan set on its lowest speed will have the same effect, as will a strong fan placed in an adjacent room.
When it comes to cooling, moisture can be your friend. The wind-chill effect mentioned above is part of it, but any time there’s moisture on your skin, evaporative cooling occurs. While outdoor misting systems are frowned on (even sometimes prohibited) due to the amount of water they waste, keeping a misting bottle like you use for your plants will have the same effect. Why should your plants get all the attention? And of course the effect is heightened with a gentle breeze.
And don’t overlook yourself. Everyone in Colorado knows the importance of staying hydrated, but did you know that it also plays an important role in regulating your body temperature? Plain water is best, but most liquids will do the job. Just avoid beverages like caffeine and alcohol that dehydrate you, defeating the purpose.
Don’t Add Unnecessary Heat
Avoid using appliances like stoves, ovens, and dryers that add heat during the day. If you must, see that they are properly vented to the outdoors. An exhaust hood will pull heat out of your kitchen, too. And switching to LED light bulbs not only saves energy, it greatly reduces heat, as well.
When These Measures Aren’t Enough
There may be days when you need your air conditioning despite taking other measures. Using a programmable thermostat will keep your energy use to a minimum. Set it to a higher temperature when you’re away and add cooling half an hour before you come home.
What those temperatures are depends on your personal preferences, of course. The EPA and Department of Energy recommend no cooler than 78 degrees when the house is occupied and 85 degrees when you’re away. They say 82 degrees is right for sleeping. While that may seem warm, remember that a ceiling fan will add evaporative cooling while you sleep.
You may disagree but use those settings as a starting point and make changes in one-degree increments until you find the temperature that’s right for you. Give your system about half an hour to stabilize before making further changes.
Or consider sleeping outdoors on a screened porch. Just be sure to bring some blankets.
You’re in Colorado, after all.
If you need whole house, exhaust, or ceiling fans installed, or any other electrical work, Allstar Electrical Services is ready to help. Give us a call at (303) 399-7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.