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Hydro hacks: Low-cost ways to beat the heat

Image of a fan running in front of an open window
Before you shell out for an air conditioner to keep your cool this summer, consider other ways to stay comfortable that won't rack up your electricity bill.

Air conditioning alternatives can be just as effective at a fraction of the cost

Summer is pretty much here for much of the province and although we're excited to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather, the last thing you want to do is come home to a sweltering house. Running an air conditioner full blast will help keep your house temperatures low, but it will definitely increase your electricity costs.

There are simple changes that you can make that will help keep your home at a comfortable temperature without compromising savings on your bill. Get yourself a few ice packs and a fan, and you're on your way to enjoying a cool and cost-effective summer.

Throw some shade (on your windows)

The best way to keep your home cool is to prevent solar gain, which is just a fancy way of referring to the summer heat that gets trapped inside your home. Your windows are the most susceptible for allowing radiant heat to enter the house. Window coverings can cut down on solar gain by as much as 65%. Keep the blinds drawn when you're not home or from mid-morning to late evening. You can also opt for a heat-controlled window film or a thermal insulated curtain to increase the heat protection of your home.

Consider installing an awning, an outdoor window shade or shade trees that will still let light in but block the heat. Protecting your windows will help reduce the amount of heat entering your home and help keep indoor temperatures low.

On really hot days, resist the temptation to leave your windows open all day for a gentle summer breeze. Wait until the temperature outside is cooler than inside. An indoor/outdoor thermometer can help you determine when to open your windows or you can wait until the sun goes down and let the cool air flow naturally through your home.

Using fans the right way

Fans are a great option to help cool your home and can be much less expensive to operate than air conditioners. Placing a fan next to your window at night will help bring in the cool evening air. If you're lucky enough to have a ceiling fan, make sure you set in to rotate counter-clockwise in order to generate a downward cooling breeze.

Using fans strategically can be a low-cost and effective way of circulating air to optimize the temperature in your home. Using two 75-watt floor fans running an average of 4.7 hours a day over three months will cost you about $7 in electricity charges. Comparatively, a central air conditioning system operating 9.4 hours a day would use an estimated $323 in electricity over two months.

To maximize the cooling effect of your fan, fill a mixing bowl with ice and place it in front of your fan to achieve the extra-chilled summer breeze.

Take the cooking outside

When it comes to cooking this summer, our best advice is to do it outside if you can. Your oven is a large appliance that generates a lot of heat. Get inspired by some oven-free dishes or opt for an outdoor BBQ and get creative with some grill friendly recipes. If you need to cook inside use smaller appliances; crock pots and toaster ovens generate considerably less heat in the kitchen. Check out some of these recipes perfect for staying cool this summer:

Ditch the incandescent lights, and unplug

If you are still holding on to your incandescent bulbs, let your comfort be your motivation. Incandescent bulbs produce about 2% light and 98% heat. Switching out incandescent bulbs with LEDs will not only help lower energy costs, it will also reduce excess heat produced in your home.

Speaking of excess heat, go ahead and unplug all those unnecessary appliances and unused electronics. Everything you plug into a socket produces heat and that stand by power amounts to about 10% of you energy costs every year. Two for one savings!

Swap your sheets

You may love curling up with flannel sheets in the winter but these thicker materials trap heat making them less than ideal for hot nights. For optimal summer slumber, try changing to a material that is light and breathes easily. Check out the Top 15 Best Cooling Sheets of 2019. As an added benefit, buy yourself a buckwheat pillow. They feature a naturally occurring air space that won't hold your body heat like a conventional pillow. If you're not ready to invest in new sheets or pillows, you can cool your current bedding by freezing a sock filled with rice and slipping it between your sheets. The rice will hold a chill longer and help cool you right to sleep.

Time to hang dry your laundry

It's best to avoid any appliance or task that is going to increase the temperature in your home. Take advantage of the warm weather and hang dry your laundry outside. If that's not an option for you, try using a clothing rack indoors. Avoid taking hot showers and opt for a cooler shower and run your bathroom fan to extract excess moisture. You can also put products like lotions and mists in the fridge to give you a 'spa-like' cooling effect.

Be power smart about air conditioning

If you have it in your home, air conditioning is typically the biggest drain on our energy bills in the summer. While cutting cooling costs delivers big savings, it's easier said than done on a scorcher of a day. So if you've already taken the plunge and installed a unit, rather than tell you to get rid of it, we're going to help you be smart about how you use it.

  • Keep your air conditioner set at 25 degrees Celsius, not cooler, to optimize the balance between savings and comfort.
  • Consider using a fan to help promote better air circulation.
  • Close off doors to rooms that aren't being used and keep the cooling contained to the areas that need it.

If you don't have air conditioning at home, consider spending the day somewhere that does, like a library, at a museum or restaurant.

Making simple changes can dramatically reduce the temperature in your home and keep you cool and comfortable this summer. And if all else fails, buy yourself one of these solar-powered fan hats.