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Great Ways to Reduce Cooling Costs This Summer

Portland and Vancouver may not have the hottest summers, but that doesn’t mean keeping your house cool isn’t still important. Properly ventilating and insulating your home can reduce your need for air conditioning and help keep your cooling bills as low as possible. Be prepared for those 90 degree days this summer by taking a few simple steps to keep your house cool and lower your energy bill.

Make use of natural ventilation
The outdoor air naturally cools by 20 degrees Fahrenheit or so every night. You can take advantage of this cooler air by opening the windows in your home every night before bed and closing them again in the morning.

You can also make use of the natural cooling that breezes provide during the day by opening windows on the shady side of your home to draw in the cool air that collects there. You can then open windows on the opposite side to create a cross-breeze that naturally cools your home. In houses with more than one story, hot air tends to rise to the upper floors, which can get very hot. It’s especially important to open windows on the top floor so the rising hot air leaves the house and is replaced by cooler air from the lower stories. During the heat of the day, close the windows to keep the cool air in your home.

Ceiling fans
Fans don’t actually cool the air in your home the way an air conditioner does, but a running ceiling fan can make you feel up to 8 degrees cooler, reducing the amount of A/C you feel like you need. You can save 7 percent on cooling costs for every degree above 78 you set your thermostat.

Avoid overcooling your home
When you leave your house for the day, consider setting the thermostat to only cool to around 85 degrees. Your air conditioning uses much less energy to cool down a hot house when you get home than it does to keep the house cool all day long. If you’re going to be out of the house anyway, there’s no reason to pay to keep your house cool while you’re away. A programmable thermostat can be a huge help in automating this process and save you a lot of money in the long run.

Weatherize your attic
Even on mild summer days, the attic temperature can easily rise past 100 degrees due to the heating effect of direct sunlight on your roof. Properly sealing and insulating your attic will keep that heat out of the other rooms in your house and save your air conditioner a lot of work. You will want to make sure that any air ducts running the attic are sealed and insulated as well, or you could lose a lot of energy there.

Insulate your windows
Windows can be a big source of inefficiency in the home. Old or poorly installed windows can let cool air leak out of the house and be replaced by hot outdoor air. Make sure there are no gaps around your windows, and consider installing Energy Star windows for year-round savings. You also can cut your heating costs by up to a third by simply installing neutral-colored blinds or drapes with heat-reflective backings.

Upgrade your equipment
If the air conditioning unit in your home is 10 years old or more, or if it needs repairs more than once a year, the unit is probably near the end of its operating lifespan. Consider replacing the unit with a newer, more efficient one. An upgrade to one of the new high-efficiency air conditioners could save you up to 50 percent on annual cooling costs and help you avoid all those troublesome breakdowns.