Ways to keep your home cool in summer

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Katherine Roth

As summer temperatures — and utility bills — rise, there are some easy ways to keep cool that are cheaper and greener than air conditioning.

Cooling curtains

Pull down the shades or draw the curtains on windows facing south, east and west during the day, said Con Edison, which provides power to New York City and surrounding areas. It said 40 percent of unwanted heat comes in through the windows. Even if air conditioning is needed later in the day, drawing the curtains earlier means you can use less of it.

Be a fan of fans

Ceiling fans are a great substitute for air conditioning when it’s not overly hot or humid, and they make you feel cooler by moving air across your skin, said Meg Waltner, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

If you need to buy fans, look for Energy Star ratings and rebate offers, she said. Also, many ceiling fans feature a light kit, so make sure each socket has an energy-saving LED bulb inside. LED bulbs use five times less energy than the old incandescents and don’t give off as much heat, Waltner said.

Plant a tree

A tree is as sophisticated as any electronic device around, conservationists say. It lets sun through in winter and grows sun-blocking leaves in summer.

Large deciduous trees planted on the east, west and northwest sides of your home create shade from the hot summer sun, and can reduce summer air conditioning costs by up to 35 percent, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, a non-profit Nebraska-based conservation group.

Avoid heat-producing appliances

Con Edison recommends minimizing the use of household appliances when temperatures climb. Summer is a great time to opt for outdoor grilling and foods that don’t require cooking. Washers, dryers and dishwashers should be used at night, when temperatures are cooler, the utility said.

AC efficiency

When you do use air conditioners be sure they’re Energy Star-certified, have programmable thermostats, and are set no lower than 78 degrees when you’re around, 80 when you’re away for part of the day, and “off” when you’re on vacation, Waltner said.

Programmable thermostats can cut power use by 20 to 30 percent, she said. Many power companies offer free programmable thermostats to clients. It’s worth checking their websites for offers and rebates.

Make sure windows are well-sealed to keep cool air from leaking out.

And don’t cool an empty room: Block vents in unused rooms, and turn the system off entirely while you’re away.

Keeping central air conditioner filters clean adds to their efficiency. Air conditioners and cooling systems should be inspected and cleaned annually, and kept clear of leaves and dirt, experts say. Filters should be checked every three months, or more often for homes with pets.

If your AC is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an Energy Star-qualified model could cut your annual cooling costs by 30 percent, Waltner said. Many local utility companies offer rebates for more efficient new models.

Learn more at www.energystar.gov/ cooling.                                               

  — AP