Last July broke the record for the hottest month across the globe, and 2020 is on target to be the hottest year since tracking began 140 years ago. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have estimated that most of the years in the next decade will also top the charts.
Higher temps aren’t good news for our summer energy bills. Cooling is the biggest energy hog in homes. It is responsible for more than 15 percent of home electricity use according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the average household in the U.S. spent $265 powering air conditioning in 2015. With so many of us spending more time at home than in summers past and the rising costs of electricity, utility bills will likely be higher too.
So how do you keep your home cool without racking up a staggering utility bill? This list of nine tips—from free swaps to home upgrades—are a good place to start.
1. Do a detailed home energy audit.
The best way to target where to save is to take a deep dive into your home’s energy use. While you can perform a DIY energy audit, a professional inspector can give you even more insight with diagnostic tests, including testing air ducts for leaks or improper insulation; testing windows, doors, and other areas for potential air leaks; and using infrared scans to find areas prone to heat gain. Many utility companies offer discounted home energy audits, but you can also search for an HERS certified energy auditor in your area.
2. Feel the breeze.
Natural ventilation and fans can help you create a comfortable temperature inside. If you live somewhere with cooler nights, open the windows, doors, and vented skylights in the evening and early morning to drop the indoor temperature. Consider hiring a professional to install a whole house fan in the top floor ceiling to help draw the hot air out and pull the cool air in.
When you can, turn on a fan before you flip the air conditioning switch. The average ceiling fan uses less than 2 percent of the energy required to run a typical central air condition according to the utility provider Southern California Edison. While ceiling fans don’t drop the actual temperature in the room, they make the air feel roughly 4°F cooler according to the U.S. Department of Energy. When you can’t skip the AC, using a ceiling fan and raising the thermostat by just two degrees can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 14 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Turn off all fans when you leave the room, or install motion-detector switches so they turn off automatically and prevent unnecessary energy use.
Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans can also help remove hot, humid air. When you’re done bathing or cooking, set a timer for 20 minutes to remind you to turn them off.