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Effectively Keeping Your Home Cool

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.

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{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Arnold August 4, 2012, 3:53 pm

    . i no longer use my central air conditioner, too expensive to run, use window units to cool only rooms in use. Hydro rates in Ontario are quickly becoming very expensive. central air will go the way of the DoDO for lower income people, may have it but cant afford to use. I would not install if faced with choice again.

  • Paul Mundy August 3, 2012, 3:04 pm

    I found a well insulated attic not only kept my house warmer in the winter but cooler in the summer as well. Eight inches of blown in insulations made a huge difference. It cut my electricity use for the heating bill in half for the winter.
    For the summer I curtain the south side windows and partially open the north side windows, especially the upstairs windows to vent the warm air outside. Cool air is drawn up from the basement by having a fan installed at the top of the stairs. That north side of the house has larger trees and they provide cooler air all day long, almost.
    A few years ago we installed a patio roof with ultraviolate resisting grey/clear coloured plastic on the south side of the house. It ensures the direct sunlight doesn’t get through to the windows and doors in the summer time but isn’t too low for the slanted sunlight of winter to get through.
    Having light coloured roof shingles put on the roof next time I have to reshingle might reflect more light away from the house and help keep the temperature down a bit as well.

  • stewart August 3, 2012, 12:47 pm

    I installed drapes outside my south facing sliding door–very effective

  • Air Conditioner Ontario August 3, 2012, 4:53 am

    Very informative post. Thanks for giving us such a useful piece of information.

  • mkenpat August 2, 2012, 9:53 pm

    I agree totally with Michael. Leave the AC on and windows, etc closed. Have the thermostat set for 76 degrees F or 25 C. The AC will come on only when heat builds ups during the day and will be off at night. Of course, if there is a bllistering heat wave, the AC will be on dayand night, not much you can do.

    Open the windows and drapes when you have a full day of sun and breeze, and temperature outside is comfortable.

  • A Bedard August 2, 2012, 7:35 pm

    Wath about insulating atic bether; would it help and wath is the best insulation today?

  • robin August 2, 2012, 7:29 pm

    thankyou for the tips guess i am doing things right, but does NOT help with the bills

  • Michael August 2, 2012, 6:55 pm

    One of the biggest mistakes people make is to turn off their A/C at night and open all the windows. Then they wait until it starts to get warm the next day before turning it back on.

    This allows the house to fill up with the humid air as the dew falls. Even if it;s cooler, it’s wet. All the carpets, drapes and soft furniture in the house absorb that moisture and then the A/C has to dry all that out BEFORE it can start cooling the air.

    It is far better to leave the A/C on, leave the windows closed, drapes pulled.

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