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Keeping Cool Without The Cost

Larry Brydon, LEED AP – Vice Chair – Reliance Home Comfort

Mr. Brydon is currently a Senior Account Executive with Reliance Home Comfort where he supports New Product Development projects within their Builder Markets Group.

He is both a LEED Accredited Professional, and an NRCan Certified Energy Evaluator with the EnergyStar and Energuide programs. In addition to his role as Vice Chair with Sustainable Buildings Canada, he has also served as Chair of the Canada Green Building Council – Greater Toronto Chapter and is a past Board Director for BILD, the Building Industry and Land Development Associations (formerly Greater Toronto Home Builders Association and The Urban Development Institute).

July, 2011.

Stay Cool This Summer Without Breaking The Bank

Summer is here and it’s a hot one. When temperatures break 30 degrees in Ontario, the humidity often makes it feel like it’s above 40 degrees. When it’s that sticky and hot, keeping your family comfortable and safe climbs to the top of the priority list.

Here are the top 10 ways to keep your home comfortable this summer without breaking the bank.

1. Pay attention to when you run your air conditioner.

Your energy bills fluctuate depending on the time of day. Keeping your air conditioner off during peak hours will help you keep your energy bills down so that you can spend it on the things you actually want and need. Peak hours tend to be during the day when you are at work or at school, so set your thermostat a couple of degrees higher and you’ll notice the savings on your bill.

2. Seal up the house.

Remember when your mother told you to keep the doors closed so that you didn’t “cool the entire neighborhood”? Although keeping doors closed will prevent cold air from escaping your home, you can also use spray foam on any openings around the house and even replace any old door seals that may be letting the humidity in.

3. Maintain your air conditioner.

Although your air conditioner is a durable piece of equipment, consistent maintenance will ensure it is running at full capacity while keeping costs down. Consider changing the filters regularly and keeping the condenser coils on the unit clean. You may even want to consider a Comfort Protection Plan from your home comfort provider. This plan includes regular maintenance on your air conditioner.

4. Switch to CFL light bulbs.

Believe it or not, the light bulbs in your house may be producing unwanted heat. Not only should you keep lights off during the day, but try using CFL (energy efficient) bulbs instead of standard bulbs.

5. Turn off your electronic devices (completely).

In addition to the light bulbs in your house, electronic devices such as computers and televisions are also producing unwanted heat. Even when a device enters “sleep” mode, they are still drawing energy (wasting money) and producing heat (making your home less comfortable). So use a power bar to turn off those computers and TVs completely!

6. Get outside and use the BBQ!

Summer is a great time for food and friends, but the heat produced by your indoor cooking appliances make your home even harder to cool down. What better way to enjoy the summer weather and keep your home comfortable than to get outside and use the BBQ? Of course, you could always use the microwave, but who wants chicken or steak from the microwave?

7. Install Energy Star ceiling fans.

Have you ever noticed that a cool breeze in the summer makes you feel 100 times better? You can create that same effect indoors by installing a ceiling fan. This is especially effective for cooling down rooms that tend to be warmer than others without having to set the thermostat lower to compensate. Just be sure you get an Energy Star rated fan to keep the energy costs to a minimum.

8. Plant a tree!

Quick – how do you make your home more comfortable, save on energy costs and save the enviroment all at the same time? Plant a tree! When that summer sun beats down on your south and west facing windows, it’s making things a lot warmer than they need to be in your house. Plant a tree that loses its leaves in the fall and you’ll still let the sun through in the winter. You can also consider planting some shrubs around your air conditioner to keep the condensing unit nice and cool, which will increase its efficiency.

9. What if you don’t have air conditioning?

If you don’t have air conditioning in your house, you can use the “passive cooling” method. If your house is two stories or more, you’ll be familiar with the “cool basement” and “hot upstairs” combination. To combat this, simply open a window in your basement and one on the upper floor. The warm air rising through your basement will draw cool air throughout your house. You can increase the effect by opening up a second window on the upper floor, which will allow for cross ventilation.

10. Get out of your house and into your community.

Wherever you live in Ontario, there are places in your community where you can get out for a fun family trip and cool down at the same time. Whether it’s a lake, river or community park, there are plenty of places to keep cool while discovering this great province of ours.

{ 11 comments… add one }

  • Betty Gottfred July 25, 2011, 11:44 am

    I would like to know if I have a service contract with Reliance just how many times and when the AC is serviced? My unit this summer does not seem to be getting mu home cool as in the past and I am wondering if it needs cleaning, etc or is just because of the excessive heat in the past couple of weeks
    thank you in advance


  • Max B. July 22, 2011, 12:41 pm

    We have several ceiling fans in our home, two upstairs in the bedrooms and in the kitchen. We also have two portable indoor AC units – one on the ground floor and on the top floor.

    One ongoing mystery for us is which way to set the flow on the ceiling fans in these terribly hot days – to suck the air up into the ceiling, or to push it down from the ceiling?

    Should we also leave a window open a crack to ensure we don’t cook in our own generated heat?

    • Rich Massingham July 26, 2011, 2:03 pm

      To deal with the heat, it is always suggested that you push the air down. As for opening the windows, I would not suggest that you do so.

  • John July 22, 2011, 11:31 am

    Per #8- planting bushes around the A/C condenser and pump. Air is drawn into this unit via the sides through the condenser, for it’s cooling, and then blows the ‘hot’ air out the top. Do not restrict the air flow by planting the bushes too close to the unit.

  • Ruth Hillman July 22, 2011, 10:08 am

    Helpful ideas here — thankyou. I like that you include the letters and your answers — certainly saves one asking the same questions.
    Ruth Hillman

  • Renate Wald July 21, 2011, 9:17 am


    I have a question regarding A/C in winter – I’ve heard 2 different things ….
    Is it better to: a) cover the A/C unit with those plastic covers you buy OR
    b) Not cover the A/C unit?
    I’ve done both but not sure which is best….

    Thank you in advance;

    • Rich Massingham July 21, 2011, 12:32 pm

      I don’t believe that there is a “best” choice here. If you cover it too well, you won’t allow airflow which could potentially lead to rust whereas if you don’t cover, you deal with the possiblity of debris, animals etc. One suggestion is to cover the top of the unit with a piece of plywood. If you do decide to use the plastic AC cover, be sure to leave a few inches at the bottom to allow for airflow. Hope this helps.

  • Ed July 20, 2011, 10:04 pm

    Hi, could you please provide a lead as to can the spray foam to seal leaks around the house be something that can be purchased from like a Home Depot or is that require a professional service?

    Thank you

    • Rich Massingham July 21, 2011, 12:47 pm

      There are professional services that can assist but in most cases, foam/caulking can provide the same benefit especially if you are dealing with small cracks around door or window frames. You can buy them at any home improvement store. Hope this helps.

  • Avril Hickson July 19, 2011, 9:48 am

    #3. Where are the “condensor coils”? We have had our A/C for 11 yrs.

    #5. Does this also include plugged in lamps, radios, etc. i.e. anything that is plugged in directly to the wall?

    #7. How do I know if I have an Energy Start fan?

    Thank you.

    • Rich Massingham July 20, 2011, 1:15 pm

      Hi Avril, as for #3 a good place to start is to clear the coils on the outside of the A/C of dirt, dust and debris – this will allow them to work more efficiently. #5 generally anything with a display will draw power when not in use e.g coffee maker, DVD player #7 EStar ratings for fans began 8 or 9 year ago which is a good indicator, most are now labelled as well which will confirm if it is Energy Star rated. Hope this helps.

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