Sum­mer is just around the cor­ner which means that most of us will seal up our homes and crank the AC.  Not this year! Below are 10 ideas on how to keep your home cool and com­fort­able with­out flip­ping that AC switch on.

But first, some not so fun facts about air conditioners:

  • Air con­di­tion­ers can use up to 1/6th of the nation’s electricity.
  • Dur­ing the hottest sum­mer days air con­di­tion­ers con­sume 43% of theUSpeak pow­er load.
  • The US Depart­ment of Ener­gy states that heat­ing and cool­ing sys­tems emit over half a bil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide each year into the atmosphere
  • Air con­di­tion­ers also gen­er­ate approx­i­mate­ly 24% of the nation’s sul­fur diox­ide, a key ingre­di­ent in acid rain


  1. The cheap­est and eas­i­est way to see some sav­ings this sum­mer and year round would be to caulk and weath­er strip win­dows and doors. All the sup­plies you need will cost approx­i­mate­ly as much as a fast food lunch.
  1. Light col­ored drapes and blinds help keep unwant­ed heat out of the house, and could give your inte­ri­ors a lit­tle face lift.   Two-lay­ered drapes are the best for keep­ing the inte­ri­or tem­per­a­ture com­fort­able year round.  When installing blinds, the clos­er to the win­dow they are the more effec­tive they are.
  1. Install heat reflect­ing film on south & west fac­ing win­dows.  This nifty lit­tle trick will not only keep heat out but it will cut down on ultra­vi­o­let rays that dam­age fur­ni­ture and floors.  This film has a slight tint, but will not block views.  It typ­i­cal­ly reflects up to 72% of the sun’s heat & 99% on the UV rays.  Home Depot sells 3’x15’ rolls for just under $40, & it can save some house­holds 50% on their sum­mer ener­gy bills!
  1. For year round com­fort and afford­abil­i­ty invest in a pro­gram­ma­ble ther­mo­stat.  Pro­gram­ming the ther­mo­stat back 10 to 15% for 8 hours a day will save about 10% of a house­holds heat­ing and cool­ing costs annually. 
  1. Keep air flow­ing by using ceil­ing fans, portable fans, or the “fan only” set­ting on your ther­mo­stat.  Your body per­ceives mov­ing air 4 to 9 degrees cool­er than still air. Plus the sav­ings are stag­ger­ing; using fans dur­ing the warm sea­son costs 30% less than run­ning your air conditioner. 
  1. Most heat absorp­tion is through the roof.  To reflect 97% of this heat install a foil radi­ant bar­ri­er on the under­side of the roof rafters, but make sure to leave an air space between the roof and the foil.  Its easy to install & will decrease your ener­gy use sig­nif­i­cant­ly.  Home Depot sells 300 square feet of recy­cled, all nat­ur­al foil for $150.
  1. Anoth­er easy way to keep heat out of your home is through insu­lat­ing the attic floor.  Fiber­glass insu­la­tion, at least R‑30, is easy to install.  A roll costs around $15, and the sav­ings of insu­lat­ing your attic will be year round.
  1. Are you tired of that rud­dy old paint job?  If you are plan­ning on updat­ing the façade of your home this sum­mer make sure to use light-col­ored sur­faces on the exte­ri­ors.  Dark-col­ored exte­ri­ors absorb 70% to 90% of radi­ant ener­gy from the sun.
  1. Dur­ing hot sum­mer days there is almost noth­ing more sat­is­fy­ing than lying in the grass cooled by the shade of a nice big tree.   Don’t you think our homes deserve that too?  The U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy esti­mates that just three trees prop­er­ly placed around the house can save the aver­age house­hold between $100 & $250 in ener­gy costs annu­al­ly.  To be most effec­tive trees need to be locat­ed on the south and west sides of your home.  Decid­u­ous trees are the best because dur­ing the win­ter they allow light & heat in.
  1. If you are like me and have an itty-bit­ty amount of green space around your home, or want a lit­tle more instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion than watch­ing a tree grow over decades, vines make a nice alter­na­tive.  Trel­lis­es should be placed on the hottest side of the house and stand at least 6” from the wall to cre­ate a buffer of cool air.