Take advantage of cooler weather: If the area where you live cools off in the evening, take advantage of this to cool off your entire house. Open windows and doors with screens to bring the inside temperature down and facilitate cross breezes. Put fans in the windows to pull cool air in and hot air out of the house.
In the morning, close up your house and draw blinds and drapes closed, so the house stays dark and cool. If you have blinds, close them or angle them upwards. That way, light is reflected up and into the room and direct rays of the sun are not let in.
Remember that shade is a wonderful tool to use to keep heat to a minimum. Keep the sun from hitting your windows and doors. Curtains will help on the inside, but you can also use the Mylar covered auto sun shades to cover an outside window that is in direct sunlight during the heat of the day. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering the house by as much as 80%.
Inexpensive bamboo shades that roll-up and down are another way to keep your doors shady. We have four bamboo shades on our back porch and we pull them down during the hottest parts of the day to keep the back of the house cooler. Trees can also be planted to provide shade to help keep your home cooler.
Keep the air moving around inside. Fans are another tool you can use to keep your house cooler in the summer. Ceiling fans help to create breezes in the house during the day and night and can make an entire room feel cooler.
High velocity vans are an easy way to move large amounts of air around a room efficiently. This helps the air conditioner work more efficiently, so you can actually set the thermostat temperature higher than would be the case without the fans.
Also, make sure you clean your air conditioning filters and fans regularly, so they will work more efficiently.
Close off rooms you are not using. If you’re not using a room, close the vents and the doors. Same goes for closets, storage rooms, and bathrooms. Also, close the door to the basement, and down any stairwells. Remember that heat rises while cold air falls, so if you have a basement and you have the door open, cold air from upstairs will actually fall down the stairs where you don’t need it.
Spend your time in the coolest area of the house. That may be a basement or a smaller room where the windows can catch a breeze or a window air conditioner has less space to cool, which makes that room cooler than larger rooms in the house. Basements are usually 10-15 degrees cooler than the upstairs part of the house. My sister’s house has a basement in it and when we visit there during the summer we spend a lot of time there because it is much cooler than the upstairs portion of her house.
Stay hydrated. Your body needs water to keep cool, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty. Your body is designed to cool itself and if you stay hydrated, your body will do its job more efficiently than if you become dehydrated.
Dress for the season. Go barefoot or wear sandals and keep the socks and tennis shoes for cooler weather. Wear lighter weight fabrics and shorts with a sleeveless shirt.
Consider wearing your swimsuit. One summer when I first lived on my own in a small house with no air conditioning, the weather was miserably hot. I stayed in my swimsuit when I was not working and would often take a cold shower and then go outside to dry off in the shade, which made the heat more bearable.
Use the water hose or use a spray bottle of water to give yourself a spritz of cool water every once in a while.
Minimize heat buildup inside the house. Do all that you can do in order to not add to the heat of the house during the day when temperatures are at their highest. Ovens, computers, lamps, washers, dryers, and dishwashers can all act like mini-space heaters and can put out large amounts of heat in your rooms.
Run appliances either late at night or early in the morning and not during the heat of the day. Use electrical power strips to plug your electronic devices into, so you can turn off the switch when not in use because many electronics give off heat.
Turn off the lights. A traditional 60 watt incandescent bulb can heat a small room as much as five degrees in one hour while a 100 watts bulb can heat the room as much as 11 degrees in an hour. While CFL's are much better than traditional bulbs at heating up, they do still put off some heat, so turn them off when you don't need them.
One of the biggest contributors to indoor heat and humidity is cooking. Feel free to cook outside during the summer. I can remember many days cooking dinner outside with my Grandmother during the summer. She had a whole kitchen set up outside. Use your gas or charcoal grill to cook outside and keep the heat out of your home.
If you do have to cook inside, use small appliances like electric skillets and crock pots to your advantage; they maintain low temperatures well and release almost no heat into the kitchen. Use a toaster oven rather than heat up the house with your big oven.
Remember, air conditioners have to work harder to deal with the excess heat and humidity created by cooking indoors. If you’ve ever turned your oven on during a hot summer day then you know what I’m talking about.
Plan ahead and eat cooler meals to save energy. Pay attention to the weather forecast and take advantage of the cooler days to prepare a few extra meals and stash them in the freezer. You can then cook that food in your microwave when faced with a hot spell rather than heating up the house with the oven. Eat foods such as salads, fruits, sandwiches, crackers and cheeses instead of heating up the house rather than cook a more traditional meal.
Install a programmable thermostat. These devices regulate the temperature in your house automatically according to the schedule that you set. Thus, when you’re not home, it allows the heating or cooling to turn off for several hours, saving you on your energy bill. A programmable thermostat can easily cut your energy bill by 10 to 20%.
Check your home for air leaks. Most homes have some air leaks that make the job of keeping it cool in summer much harder. In the summertime, heat can leak into homes through cracks and openings around the house, and around window air conditioning units. Adding caulk, foam and weather stripping around doors, windows, and air conditioners can help to prevent these leaks.
Use cold water to help stay cool. Run your wrists under a cold tap for five seconds, which will help your body to stay cool. Place a wet washcloth in a Ziploc baggie and stick it in the freezer. Pull it out when you feel hot and wipe your face and arms and hands off, which will make your feel cooler immediately. When I was growing up, we always took a few baggies of wet washcloths with us when we were going anywhere.
Consider running a dehumidifier. Getting the humidity level in your house lower is like a magic bullet, which will allow you to raise the temperature on your air conditioning unit and thus save money.
There you have it, tips to stay cool while still trying to save money in the process. Hopefully, when you open your electric bill this summer you will have a pleasant surprise.
Remember, do what you can, with what you have, where you are, and stay cool this summer.
What tips do you have for saving money during the hot days of summer?