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6 Budget-Friendly Ways to Keep the House Cool in Summer

Even if winter is still hanging on, without a doubt things are going to heat up soon. And won’t that be wonderful—provided you’ve figured out ways to keep things cool indoors this summer without sending your utility bills through the stratosphere?

Large thermometer against orange-hot sun

If you could use some help in that regard, here are some tips, tricks, and great ideas that will help you stay cool without blowing a hole in the budget.

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.

Related: Best Inexpensive™ Window Air Conditioner

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Best Inexpensive Home Dehumidifiers and How to Choose

Humidity, or the lack thereof, is a popular topic this time of year. Where I live in northern Colorado, it’s dry! We have like no humidity. Well, not exactly, but it averages in the low mid-20 percent during the summer and fall months. We have a humidifier in our home, and it runs 24/7 year-round for health and comfort.

Recently, lots of readers have inquired about how to deal with the opposite—high humidity, which can get pretty miserable. A dehumidifier can be a godsend for those who live in high humidity areas to remove excess moisture from indoor air.

older man hot and sweaty heat of summer

 

What is a dehumidifier?

Think of a dehumidifier as a vacuum that sucks the air from a room, removing the moisture and blowing dry air back into the room again. The condensation drips into a collection tank inside the machine that must be emptied from time to time.

Many people find that a dehumidifier works together with the air conditioning system to keep the rooms in a home comfortable even on the hottest days with super high humidity. Others rely on a dehumidifier in place of an air conditioner.

Dehumidifiers come in a variety of sizes, typically rated according to how many square feet they can dehumidify and how many pints of water they can produce in a day. Most home dehumidifiers are controlled by thermostats and humidity sensors so you can make the room as hot and dry as you wish.

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Let’s Clear Up the Mystery of Ceiling Fan Direction

As a toddler, I must have driven my parents crazy. And I am still doing it, but now to my husband. I can’t help it. I want to know the “Why?!” about everything. Take ceiling fan direction for example. Most ceiling fans have a switch with two options. “Forward” spins one way, “Reverse” the other. But why? What for? Who made that rule?
Ceiling fan is rotating at the ceiling of the room.

Years ago a reader sent in her handy tip, passed along from her husband, a heating and air conditioning specialist: In the winter, make your ceiling fans spin counterclockwise. Or was that clockwise? To be honest, it totally slipped my mind as soon as I shared it.

Shrugging young woman confused over fan direction

But I do remember the barrage of responses I received. Some thanked me for printing the correct answer to the burning question, while others told me I was wrong and it should spin in the opposite direction. But why?!

Today, I have the answers.

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The Best Way I Know to Slash the True Cost of Dirty HVAC Filters

Do I have a story to tell you—another lesson I’ve learned the hard way so you won’t have to. Truth be told, if my faux pas helps you avoid a huge expense, I’m happy to have suffered it.

While researching to help a reader solve the mystery of black grimy lines around the edges of his home’s carpet, I casually asked my husband if he’d replaced the filter in our heating ventilation air-conditioning (HVAC) system recently. I got one of those blank stares I could easily translate: Nope, didn’t even think about it.

When we bought this house, we had the HVAC system inspected, serviced and the filter replaced. Then we got busy with leasing it while we planned and executed our big move a year later. HVAC filter? Completely forgot about it. By the time I brought up the subject, it had been more than 2.5 years!

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The scariest thing ever was to open that door on the HVAC system, dutifully labeled “Filter.” I cannot adequately describe it but I can tell you that it was nearly black and covered in what looked like fur. So gross. I’m surprised the entire system didn’t just blow up out of sheer rebellion for lack of attention.

I have since learned about the true cost of a dirty HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) filter and it’s not pretty!

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Lately, Have You Checked the HVAC Filter?

Everyone agrees that we should change the filter in our home heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Actually doing that may be something else altogether. It’s all about the where, when and how of doing it that leads us to procrastination and selective amnesia.

It’s not difficult. The problem is in making it a priority. It’s not that big of a deal, right? If the thing still turns on and cools and/or heats the place, who cares?

male-arm-and-hand-replacing-disposable-air-filter-in-residential-air-furnace.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Consider these three unintended consequences, which should help push this simple home maintenance task up to a respectable place in your list of things that are important.

High energy bills

When the heat, ventilation or air-conditioning is running, 100% of the air in your home passes through a filter, typically twice every hour. When the filter is clean, the air passes through easily. When the filter gets clogged up with all the stuff it’s filtering out, the system has to work much harder to keep air moving.

The dirtier the filter, the less efficient the system can be—and more likely to develop problems. According to the Department of Energy, regular filter changes can reduce your energy bill by 5% to 10%. Conversely, a super dirty filter will send that bill through the roof!

Family health

A quality filter captures the harmful bacteria typically found in sneezes, coughs, viruses, and molds, as well as pollutants like dust and car fumes. If you have allergies or asthma, indoor air pollution can trigger your symptoms.

Most people don’t realize that indoor air pollution levels are actually much higher than those outdoors—two to five times higher, according to medical professionals. When particles become airborne, you can breathe them in and experience an allergic reaction. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system in your home can harbor and then spread mold and other allergens.

Grimy carpet stains

It’s called filtration soiling and shows up as dark, shadowy, dirty lines on the carpet along baseboards, under doors, beneath draperies and along the edges and in the crevices of carpeted stairs.

filtration-soiling-resulting-in-ugly-grimy-stains-on-carpet

Filtration soil is as ugly as it is gross and comes from airborne pollutants passing through the carpet as the air is drawn through the crack between the carpet and the baseboard, around the drapes or under a closed door.

MORE: What are Those Grimy Black Lines Around the Edges of My Carpet?

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