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18 Tips to Save Money While Keeping Cool

Frugal Parenting (featured column)
by Rachel Keller

Summer, school’s out, fresh fruits and vegetables abound, the days are long, while the sun beats down. That bright warm sun also heats your house making some days seem unbearable. How can you stay cool and conserve energy and money at the same time?

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1. Air conditioners are wonderful on hot, humid days, but they consume so much energy and raise your electric bill. Next to your heating system, your air conditioning consumes more energy than any other appliance in your house. Whenever possible, turn off the air and open windows for fresh air. By following some of the following suggestions, you may find that you won’t need to use air conditioning as much.

2. If you must use the air, try turning it off at night and keeping it off through the morning. Use it only during the hottest part of the day.

3. Set your air conditioner on a warmer setting to save money on your electric bill, especially if you’re gone during the day. Use an automatic timer, to cool it down shortly before returning home.

4. If you’re in the market for replacing your entire heating and air conditioning system, consider purchasing an energy-efficient one. Not only will this save you money over the long run, but Uncle Sam will also pay you up to a $1500 tax credit for purchasing it. You can also receive tax credit for other items, such as windows and doors.

5. Regularly change the filter on your air conditioning unit to keep it running efficiently.

6. Ceiling fans are great for circulating air even if you use the air conditioner, and they may allow you to set the air conditioner temperature higher or not even use it at all. The ceiling fan doesn’t actually lower the room’s temperature, but the moving air helps you feel cooler. So if you leave the room, turn it off to save energy.

7. Make certain your ceiling fans are rotating the correct direction for either summer or winter. You want the fan rotating forward to lift the cool air up. If the fan is rotating backward warm air is being pushed down, which is great for the winter, but not the summer. The exception to this is if you have a high ceiling as in a stairwell. If you have your manual for the fan, follow the directions indicated in it. If you're uncertain about the direction of your fan, stand under it while it is on. Then turn off the fan and switch directions. Notice which way makes you feel cooler. Fans are supposes to rotate counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter, but I think some fans may be opposite. At least, we've noticed that our fans feel cooler air when they're rotating clockwise, and we don't notice the air when they're rotating counterclockwise.

8. If you have a central house fan, use it when the temperature is cooler outside than inside. We use a central house fan in the early morning hours or at night to cool our house. It is amazing how much a central house fan draws in the cool air!

9. Make certain that your attic is properly ventilated. An attic fan or vents can significantly reduce your cooling costs.

10. Proper insulation in your attic will also help keep the cool air in your house in the summer as well as warm air in the winter.

11. Close blinds to prevent the sun from warming your house. Not only does the sun heat rooms, but it can also fade curtains, pictures, and photos.

12. Don’t spend money cooling or heating unused rooms. If you’re not using a room, close the vents and the doors.

13. Replace your regular bulbs with more energy efficient alternatives to save energy and produce less heat. Of course, turning off lights not in use saves even more money.

14. Consider planting trees or shrubs for shade. We transplanted a tree, which had begun growing in our flower bed, to our front yard. As it grows, it offers more shade and coolness in the summer.

15. Minimize internal heat by using crock pots, toaster ovens, or the microwave rather than heating the oven and your kitchen.

16. Keep the heat outside with outdoor grills. You can cook many items on your grill’s burner or on portable electric burners. On very hot days, we make our dinner in the crock pot outside on the back deck. We can also cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner outside with our family-size griddle.

17. Eat more raw foods, sandwiches, and salads, or other foods that don’t need to be cooked. You can also cook extra portions and freeze these so you won’t have to spend as much time cooking and heating your house.

18. If you use the dishwasher, choose the air dry cycle to avoid generating more heat.

Finish your meal with a smoothie, milk shake, or homemade slushy. Try some of my Cool Treats That Won’t Chill Your Budget or this simple, refreshing, and inexpensive slushy recipe. My children love it and ask me to make it all the time.

Homemade Slushy

Packet of flavored drink mix (Kool-Aid or store brand)
1/2-3/4 cup sugar (Our family prefers less sweet—1/3 cup)
2 cups water
4 cups ice

Mix the sugar, drink mix, and water. Add ice and mix on high in the blender until ice is crushed.

On these hot summer days, don’t forget to spend some time outside. The fresh air is good for you as well as Vitamin D from the sun. Just avoid getting burned by staying outside too long, especially during the hottest hours of the day.

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Copyright © 2009 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.

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