hot summer thermometer

7 Budget-Friendly Ways to Keep the House Cool When it’s Hot

Have you figured out ways to keep things cool indoors this summer without sending your utility bills through the stratosphere? If you could use some help in that regard, here are some tips, tricks, and great ideas that will help you stay cool without burning a hole in the budget.

hot summer thermometer

1. Ceiling fans

Use them. Liberally. It costs less than $5 a month to run a high-efficiency ceiling fan on high speed for 12 hours a day (assuming a cost of $.142 per kWh, which is the U.S. average), according to the Energy Use Calculator. The result is your home will feel about 7 degrees cooler simply because the air is circulating effectively. And that means your air conditioner will not have to work as hard to keep things comfortable.

2. Avoid using the oven

During the hot summer months, it’s wise to come up with meals and preparations that won’t require using the oven. Instead, consider your slow cooker or Instant Pot. Opt for more salads. Make salad the entree. Cook outdoors since it’s already hot out there, firing up the grill isn’t going to be a problem.

3. Whole house fan

A whole house fan (not to be confused with an attic fan) is installed in the attic and designed to ventilate the house whenever the outdoor air is cooler, which is typically after the sun sets—making it possible to turn the air conditioner off at night.

For a seasoned and experienced homeowner, installing a whole house fan is typically a do-it-yourself project. However, for a professional, it’s a quick and easy job. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Energy website.

4. Programmable thermostat

You can install this small, relatively inexpensive device yourself. It will more than pay for itself in a single summer. Now you won’t have to keep remembering to turn the setting up or down, depending on if you are home. Simply program it to fit your lifestyle, and you won’t waste money cooling the house when no one is home.

5. Cover the windows

Drapes, blinds, and shades are all very effective in reflecting the sun’s heat. White blinds, as opposed to taupe or similar color, do an even better job. But they won’t do a lot of good unless you draw and lower the window coverings early in the morning before the house heats up.

Consider blackout curtains or drapes. Because of the woven fabric, “blackout” fabric prevents the sun’s heat from entering the room as light reflects out because it can’t get in. That keeps the room cool.

6. Plant trees

Consider planting trees on your home’s south and west sides as you landscape. Select varieties that are fast-growing and have a thick canopy. Simply providing this type of shade for your home during the hot summer will likely help to reduce energy costs by up to 25 percent a year or more.

So what is the fastest-growing shade tree? Landscape experts say it’s the Royal Empress (aka Paulownia) tree, growing up to 60 feet in 3 years! However, before you rush out to get this particular fast-growing tree for your property, read up on the pros and cons.

7. Insulate

If your attic is not well-insulated, you may be sending all that nice cooled air right out through the roof. Check with your utility providers to see if any offer incentives to homeowners who beef up their home’s insulation. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that your net cost to insulate will be quite reasonable given the return on your investment in lower cooling and heating bills.

 

It’s your turn! What’s your best idea, hack, tip, or trick to keep cool when it’s hot? Add it in the comments below. 


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13 replies
  1. Joyce Spencer says:

    Living without air conditioning in the foothills of So California, we have attic insulation, attic ventilator that activates at 90 degrees, whole house fan for the evening, insulated windows. The flat part of the roof is painted white. We open doors and windows in the evenings and close up in the mornings. Have lived in our 1926 house for 40 years and been pretty comfy.

    Reply
  2. Charlie says:

    Set your A/C thermostat at 75. Let it cool and dehumidify the air, then use a fan to move the air. Periodically, splash cold water on the inside of your wrists and arms. It sounds silly, but it really cools. Slow down when it is hot. It helps to keep you from getting over-heated. Drink beverages with lots of ice.

    Reply
  3. Dorothea Giordano says:

    We love fresh air! Living in dry Colorado, almost every summer night is cool enough that we can turn off the air conditioning and use window fans to cool down the house. This saves us a bundle, and it is better for the environment as well.

    Reply
  4. Lynn Smith says:

    If all else fails, fill the bathtub with lukewarm water and soak yourself a while. You very own swimming pool.

    Reply
  5. Sheri Parker says:

    I open the windows upstairs and down when I get up at 6 AM. Convection of hotter air rising and exiting out upstairs with cooler air coming in downstairs seems to cool everything off by 8 AM. Then I close the windows downstairs and turn on the ceiling fans. We also have a thick curtain at the bottom of the stairs ti keep cooler air down. Work s great in winter to keep warmer air down and then open at night for sleeping upstairs.

    Reply
  6. Whizzy says:

    DIY Warm Windows!! This is a great reminder to get going on my sewing machine. I usually think about this in the winter because we seem to lose a lot of heat through our windows but it’s a great idea during the summer heat. We don’t have A/C and we don’t have an attic so fans & blinds are our only option. Several years ago, I bought materials to make Warm Window coverings. Usually, you seal them around your windows, but we have a beautiful log home that I don’t want to ruin aesthetically by putting Velcro all around the windows. I’m going to make Roman shades. The insulating Warm Window material is on the side towards the windows with decorative fabric on the inside.

    Reply
  7. Sharon says:

    I am in Texas, unfortunately. All week the temps are going to be 102 or above with zero change of rain. We have heavy insulation in the attic, double paned vinyl windows, trees planted in the front yard that are big and shade the front of the house, insulated drapes etc. and it’s still hot. Thermostat is set on 71. When you go outside you are blasted with heat. It is getting unbearable no matter what you do. Your ideas are good but with temps over 100 degrees, not too much of anything works other than putting your head in a freezer every once in a while. There is no end in site either.

    Reply
  8. Ed says:

    Back in the great recession (’08) I was laid off and suddenly qualified for my state’s weatherization grant program. My home is from the 40s. They did an energy audit, vapor barrier underneath and insulation in the attic, under the floor and blown into the walls. It made a world of difference. I already had new windows but they will do that too, as well as update/repair heating and air systems.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Which state do you live in, Ed? This is great information and could be the kind of program available in other state’s as well. Thanks!

      Reply
      • Julie says:

        I also had the weatherization done around that time. I live in Wisconsin and it was an income based program. My husband had lost his job and even though our house was newer, it had a ton of leaks

  9. Laura says:

    Replacing my single-pane windows with better insulated double-pane ones might not technically pay for itself anytime soon because it was expensive; but, it sure is a lot more comfortable.

    Reply
  10. Holly says:

    On Fast Growing trees, Here on the prairie in my part of MO. We have lots of wind and many of the fast growing trees lost branches or blow over. I would suggest research as you said and get a good tree that will last a lifetime and limbs won’t break so easy. Remember not to plant over sewer lines etc.

    Reply
    • Lindi says:

      I was thinking the same thing. We have hurricanes here in south Florida and a fast growing tree is prone to break or blow over.
      Also, never plant a tree under power lines. Kinda goes without saying but I see a lot of folks in my area that did not get the memo.

      Reply

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