Reviewed by George Baral and Jackie Kloosterboer
Updated March 7, 2023
This summer, the mercury in thermometers is hovering above 30 degrees in many places, causing residents to take whatever measures they can to stay cool: wearing shorts, drinking cold drinks, swimming or huddling indoors.
Hydro company executives shudder as people nationwide also crank up their air-conditioning in the heat, putting a strain on the power grid. Residents determined to keep their homes cool by using their air-conditioners may also see a surge in their electricity bills.
If you’d prefer to save money and conserve the resources needed to produce electricity, read on; there are ways to keep your home cool without draining your bank account. In addition, there are actions you can take to keep yourself cool!
Amazingly, reports Family Handyman, 30 per cent of unwanted heat comes from your windows. Keep the heat out with curtains or drapes, especially those with light-coloured lining that reflects the heat. Shades are also an option.
Windows facing west are the biggest offenders, since the sun strikes them late in the day when the temperature is at its peak. With the help of curtains, you may be able to save as much as 7% on your utility bills during the summer.
By installing awnings over your windows – especially those facing south and west – you can reduce your home’s solar heat gain by 77%. You can create makeshift awnings by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping them over railings or lawn furniture.
You can apply one-way window film to your windows to block some of the sun’s energy from entering your home (and adding some privacy on top of that).
Call on your fans. No, not your fan club – although if you have one, perhaps the members could be convinced to fan you and keep you cool. Portable electric fans or window fans, however, are a great alternative to air-conditioning. They use much less energy, and moving air causes perspiration to evaporate, which cools your body.
Ceiling fans are also excellent for circulating air. Make sure to adjust their rotation to counterclockwise for the summer so they push air down instead of sucking it up. You can also install (or rather, have a professional install) an attic fan that pulls hot air up and out of the house through the roof vents.
You may think of insulation as a must for keeping heat in during the winter, but it’s also effective in keeping your home cool in summer. One secret is combining thin sheets of insulation with bulk insulation. Insulating your attic and ceiling is also a smart move, one that can cut energy use by up to 45 per cent and pay for itself.
Trees and vines offer cooling shade and keep the sunlight away from windows, so plant them on the west side of your home where sunlight is strongest. Choose your trees with care, assessing their eventual height, root spread and canopy width before planting. Trees that are native to the area have the best chance of surviving, so familiarize yourself with local species. Also, make sure these new plants and shrubs are covered under your insurance policy.
Try to minimize your use of household appliances during the heat of the day. Stoves, ovens, irons and washer-dryers generate heat or steam and simply add to the warmth inside.
While you’re cooking, turn on the fan above your stove so that it pulls the moisture and hot air out of the kitchen. Leave it on for a few minutes after you finish until the stove cools down. In addition, power down appliances such as the television and the computer when they’re not being used so that they don’t generate heat.
Summer is the perfect time to discard your incandescent bulbs and replace them with fluorescent or LED lights. About 90 percent of the energy generated by incandescent bulbs is heat energy, so by making the switch, you’ll keep your home cooler while saving energy. Not a bad deal!
While keeping your house cool, also consider ways to stay cool while you are indoors. This includes wearing light, breathable fabrics; replacing your silk or flannel sheets with the cooler cotton variety; staying hydrated by drinking lots of water; taking a cool shower before bedtime; and putting your hot water bottle in the freezer so you can use it to chill your toes at night, keeping your entire body cooler. You can also pop a sweater in the freezer for an instant hit of cool, or freeze a towel to wake with you to bed.
Flicking the ON switch for your air-conditioner is tempting, but expensive. Try these tips and see if you enjoy saving money and energy while you stay cool.
Want to learn more? Visit our Home and Personal Safety resource centre to find more information about protecting your family and your home. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.
About the expert: George Baral
George Baral has an MBA and a masters' degree in chemistry. He spent almost 35 years inspecting and evaluating heating and air conditioning systems before retiring. He obtained a California general contractor's license to start a company focusing on energy-efficient construction, became certified as a LEED AP and earned a NATE (North American Technical Excellence) certification, which provides advanced training for HVAC technicians.
About the expert: Jackie Kloosterboer
Jackie Kloosterboer runs a speaking business called Survive It. As a disaster preparedness expert, Jackie facilitates upwards of 100 preparedness workshops annually to individuals and groups, working with them to prepare for whatever disaster comes their way. Jackie is the recipient of the Queens Jubilee Award and the Northwest Preparedness Society Award of Excellence, recognizing outstanding dedication to providing emergency support services and disaster preparedness education.
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