What is a good thermostat set point for summer?
Ideally, if you have or can install a programmable thermostat in your rental property, you can save a lot of money with the proper schedule. The ideal efficient temperature to set your house at during the summer is 76 degrees F, but if you still can’t get comfortable at 76 try following this schedule—During the day when you’re gone, set the temperature up a few degrees—78-80 degrees F. Then, program your thermostat to turn down to your comfortable temperature the hour before you come home. Do the same at night—have your thermostat go up a few degrees overnight once you’re asleep and then start cooling again in the morning before or as you wake up. By not running your AC all day and night, you can significantly reduce the cost of your utilities, especially in states where electric demand costs are higher during the working hours of the day when you’re not even home.
Can I pre-cool my space during the early morning or night?
Commercial buildings will use pre-cooling or night flashing, which takes advantage of cooler nights and mornings and cools down the spaces with “free cooling”. In homes or apartments, this is done by either opening windows during the night or cross ventilating for 15 minutes in the morning. This is not always an option due to security concerns or for allergy sufferers. However, if your home or apartment is a tight construction and not very leaky (see more about what to do about sealing your space below or in our previous post) you can benefit from using your AC to cool down the house even further during the night. Spaces with little air leakage which are sealed tight will hold the cold a lot longer. More importantly with colder outside temperatures during the night, the AC is working more efficiently and using less energy when it is cooling. This is also the reason AC condenser units are installed on the north side of buildings where it’s shaded and cooler.
Do blinds and curtains make a difference?
Blinds and curtains can multitask for you! During the day, try to keep any windows that have direct sun covered with blinds or curtains so the sun does not heat up the space and to create a barrier for the heat against the window. Blinds can also be mostly closed, but turned to angle up towards the ceiling to allow in natural light without allowing heating up the room.
However, when you are home, open blinds and curtains to allow in natural light and turn off any unnecessary lights, especially since the sun stays out so long during summer. This reduces your lighting costs, eliminates heat being produced by the light bulbs and allows your natural circadian rhythm to adjust with the sunlight.
Ceiling fans & air conditioning vents: which way is right?Ceiling fans are important tools for cooling in the summer. Hot air rises so it is important to have your fan blowing in a counter-clockwise direction to push the air down and throughout the space. This allows your cold air coming from your AC vents to be better circulated. As an added bonus, when put on a high setting you can also feel a cool breeze.
When it comes to the AC vents, make sure they are fully open where you want the cool air and direct them either towards the fan or near where you often sit to keep you most comfortable. If there are any unused rooms in the house it is helpful to close the vents in those rooms. Be careful not to close up toomany vents because you don’t want to build up pressure in your HVAC system.
If you’re like me and live in an old building without central AC and you use window units, here are some helpful tips—If you are only cooling the bedrooms, make sure to leave the doors closed as much as possible so the cold air doesn’t escape. Check that the unit is sealed in the window to avoid more air escaping. Again, it is also helpful to either turn up your temperature setting when you leave or turn the unit off completely to save on energy costs. Especially in small bedrooms, window units are quick to re-cool the space at night when you get home, so they don’t need it to run all day. If you find the breeze from the window unit is drying the air too much or it is annoying when blowing on you, use a small piece of cardboard and tape it at an angle to where the air is released. A slight angle on the air can push it up away from your face and can also help angle the air towards the ceiling fan. If the AC unit has built-in fins or vents, angle them to move the air up towards the ceiling or towards your bed if you like it cold at night.
Don’t let the air escape! How can I keep my cold AC air inside my rental unit?
Especially with window units and old houses, cold air escaping your rental unit can greatly increase your electricity bill and eat up a lot of energy. A leaky home loses 25- 30% or more air than a tightly constructed home. This is something EBE sees often when we conduct tests for air leakage in homes and apartments. Sealing your home will reduce wasted energy:
- If you’re using a window unit only in certain rooms of the house, focus on these rooms specifically. However, if you’re using window units throughout or central AC, be sure to check all the exterior components of the rental unit. With window units make sure to insulate the areas around the unit and bridge any gaps between the unit and the edges of the window. Also, make sure that all doors or other windows within that room are sealed appropriately. If the windows lock, be sure to lock them so they are extra tight.
- If you have central air be sure to check the exterior doors for leaks and gaps between the door and the frame. Leaving open the main door and utilizing a screen door will of course leak out more air than having both doors closed—having both doors closed helps create another thermal barrier from the outdoor heat. For windows, make sure to lock all the windows and be sure they are sealed tight, so cold air doesn’t escape. Again, blinds are a great way to also create an extra thermal barrier. If there is a cool day and you want to open the windows for some fresh air, remember to turn off your AC or turn it to a very high temperature so it doesn’t try to keep running while you have the windows open.
- If your landlord allows it, get to work with the caulk gun and seal all the cracks around the windows, between trim and window, around doors, and around pipes going through the wall.
Cooking—what difference does it make?
Ever been baking or cooking something in the oven and you feel like you’re roasting in the house? Try grilling outdoors! Even if you have a small backyard or tiny balcony/porch, there are tabletop size grills perfect for cooking outside of an apartment. These little grills usually use charcoal, so they don’t require gas. By cooking outside, you reduce the amount of heat being built up inside your kitchen, which causes your AC to work harder to cool the space. It also makes you feel hotter and more tempted to turn down the temperature of the AC, costing even more energy and electricity. By cooking outside you keep your home cool and get to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air!
So, what are you going to do to improve your winter months utility costs?
*Please note we are not affiliated with any of the listed products, these are products we have used in the past and have proven to work for us or our clients.