In Ontario and surrounding areas, this summer has been tremendously hot and most of the energy used by HVAC systems goes into cooling your home. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to use your air conditioner more efficiently and to decrease the amount of heat entering your home.
Increasing the efficiency of your air conditioner will not only reduce the associated air conditioning costs, but it will also decrease your cooling load, ultimately saving energy and extending the life of your cooling system. Here’s what to do:
- Avoid taxing your air conditioner: Wait until the outside temperature cools down in the evening to use your oven and other heat-generating appliances. Hang clothing to dry if possible, but if you do use a clothes dryer, make sure it vents outside to avoid a buildup of heat and humidity indoors. Set your thermostat at 25 or 26 degrees in the summer, and boost the cooling power of your air conditioner with the use of ceiling and room fans.
- Keep the hot sun out of your house: Close curtains, especially on windows that face the sun (more on this below). For a long-term investment in energy-saving shade, plant trees and shrubs near sun-facing windows. Deciduous trees will provide leafy shade in summer but allow the sun to reach your windows in winter.
- Check for air leaks: Inspect windows and doors for drafts and seal any leaks with caulk or weatherstrips. This will keep outdoor heat from entering your home in summer and will help deter icy drafts in winter. You can also check your ductwork for leaks, but it’s a good idea to have those leaks sealed by a professional HVAC contractor.
In addition to using your air conditioner more efficiently, it is also important to decrease your home’s overall heat gain. As mentioned above, closing curtains and checking for air leaks can help to keep your home cool. However, the best way to lower the amount of heat entering your home is to reduce the amount of heat entering through windows. While upgrading windows is arguably the most effective way to reduce heat gain, it’s not always cost effective for a homeowner to do so. Fortunately, using window treatments can accomplish the same goal, and there are a number of options to choose from:
- Insulating window panels: Similar to a pop-in shutter, a panel is generally constructed from rigid foam insulation, is inexpensive and creates a tight seal against the frame. You’ll need to purchase tape or Velcro designed for use with the panel too.
- Mesh window screens: These types of window treatments are designed to diffuse radiation from the sun, which limits the amount of heat that can enter through the window. They are typically mounted on the outside of the window and work best on windows that face east and west.
- Awnings: This tried-and-true method can reduce heat gain in west and south facing windows by up to 77 percent. Today’s window awnings are made to last, resist fading and mildew, and reflect higher amounts of sunlight. They do need ventilation through grommets or top and side openings.
- Blinds: This window treatment is particularly effective at reducing heat gain. Interior blinds offer maximum ventilation and light control, but aren’t as effective as exterior blinds when it comes to lowering your home’s heat gain.
- Draperies: This option works well to reduce heat gain, particularly if you choose the right type of fabric and colour.
These are just a few simple steps you can take to use your air conditioner more efficiently and decrease your home’s heat gain. For more comprehensive energy assistance, consider annual HVAC maintenance from a qualified professional who can make sure your system is working at its best and can give you great tips on saving energy while taking care of your system.