By Samantha Vercellino
1) Dust off the grill. Haul the dusty grill out of the garage—it’s time to enjoy backyard barbecues. Since grills keep heat out of the kitchen, air conditioners don’t have to work extra to cool it off. Grilling is a great way to cut costs—and spend time outdoors.
2) Schedule HVAC maintenance. Before the hot weather hits, schedule an appointment with an expert to check your equipment’s performance. An HVAC technician can tell if it’s time to replace your old cooling unit with a new energy-efficient model. (Newer ENERGY STAR units will result in at least a 15 percent gain in efficiency.)
3) Clean filters. Whether your air conditioner is old or new, clean your unit’s filter. Do it before turning it on and then periodically after that. It’s an easy way to improve the unit’s performance and to save energy.
4) Make sure your AC is sized properly for the space to be cooled. Contrary to popular belief, a larger unit will not cool a room better. A properly-sized unit will be more efficient, and it will keep the space at a constant temperature and a comfortable humidity level. If you need help sizing, use this handy chart as a guide.
5) Replace the old thermostat. If you want more control of your energy bills this summer, replace your old thermostat with a programmable one. You can program it to turn your central air conditioning on or off at certain times—and save up to $180 a year.
6) Inspect your screens. An evening breeze can help cool off your home after a hot summer day. Check your window and door screens to make sure they’re not dirty and/or in need of repair. Also, tighten and lubricate hinges and closers.
7) Consider a ceiling fan. For the days you choose not to run the air conditioner; consider installing an inexpensive ceiling fan. Fans consume much less electricity than a traditional cooling unit. (Just make sure to set it so it runs counter-clockwise in the summer, from your position looking up at it, to create a gentle downdraft.)
8) Locate and seal air leaks. This summer, keep your air conditioner—and you—from working overtime by checking your windows, doors and floors for hidden gaps and cracks. They can bring in as much steamy air as an open window, making your cooling system work harder than it should. Ensure cool air can’t escape by sealing leaks with a caulking gun or weather-stripping tool.
9) Check insulation. Beating the summer heat—and high energy bills—will prove difficult if your home lacks the recommended amount of insulation. Depending on the age of your home, you may have to add foam-insulating sheets behind outlets and switch plates and between walls. Don’t forget to check the insulation of unconditioned spaces like attics. If the insulation is level with or below the attic joints, consider adding more.
10) Give your refrigerator a checkup. Make sure your fridge is prepared to supply you with cold drinks during the inevitable heat wave. Clean the coils on the back of the fridge and make sure the door seals are airtight. (Close the door on a piece of paper. You should feel tension when you pull it out.)
Bonus Tip: Give your linens a makeover. Say goodbye to the heavy flannel sheets that kept you toasty warm in the winter, and say hello to lighter linens with solid, light colors. This will help you keep comfortable in the summer, without having to blast the air conditioner.
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