August 14, 2008

Green Living: 10 tips for Conserving Energy in the Summertime

Yes, I know it's a bit late for a post on ways to conserve energy in the summer on cooling your house, but it is only August and in some parts of the country, summer-like temperatures can extend deep into the fall.

We have 2 window-unit air conditioners in our 1903 house and we don't need to use them too much except for the hottest days of the year. One is in our baby's room for those hot and humid night. We have a window fan in our bedroom, which works great for drawing in the cool night air.

Here are 10 tips for those of you riding out a heatwave:

1. Open windows at night and close them in the late morning before it gets too hot outside. We do this and it really works well, especially if you're fortunate enough to have nighttime temps in the 60s and low 70s.
2. Invest in insulated curtains that you can close during the day to keep the harsh hot sun out. These curtains are also great in the winter when you can pull them closed at night to keep the heat in your rooms and not escape through any windows.
3. If you have an air conditioner or are thinking of installing one, put it in a shady spot. This will reduce the amount of power that it needs to cool. You could also plant shrub around a ground unit (but not too close or it won't get enough air flow to function properly). Consider installing window units on the North or Northeastern side of your house.
4. Run your air conditioner on low but also run a oscillating fan too which will help circulate the air and make you feel cool too.
5. Clean out your air conditioner's air filter. Easy enough to do, just run it under water and remove the dust/lint and let air dry.
6. Ceiling fans also work well for this but only use a ceiling fan when people are in the room. They actually don't cool a room but the breeze from it cools a person's skin.
7. Two window fans are great for creating cross breezes. Install one on one side of the house and another at the opposite end. One should be pulling in outside air while the second one should be facing outward to pull the inside air to the outside. Leave as few obstructions in the air path as possible by leaving doors open or locating fans at the end of a hallway.
8. Plant deciduous trees or shrubs (ones that lose their leaves in the fall) along the Southern or Western sides of your house. They'll shade your house in summer but in winter, their leaves won't prevent the sun from warming your home.
9. Take a cool shower and then sit in front of a fan.
10. Drink lots of fluids, especially with ice. Below is my recipe for Lazy Girl's (me!) Iced Tea.

Lazy Girl's Iced Tea
1 Pitcher (whatever size you have)
12 Tea Bags (whatever you've got, but don't mix too many odd flavors together)


Sweetener (optional) I like making a simple syrup by boiling one cup of sugar with one cup of water and a bunch of mint that you've crushed with your hands. You can keep this on hand in your fridge. It dissolves better in cold liquid than sugar.

Fill pitcher with water. Add tea bags (remove labels if they have any). Stick in fridge for at least 6 hours. Stir. Remove tea bags. Add sweetener. Done.

Green Tea Iced Tea...almost gone!


  1. I really wish I could do the whole window thing. My husband has allergies, so we have to keep everything closed up tight!

    It is handy, though, that people can't hear all of my ridiculousness going on in here...

  2. Thanks so much for this post! It seems like many people with air conditioning forget to try opening their windows to cool off the house--but it really saves energy and money! Also, the humble ceiling fan, which you happily listed in your blog is mentioned as one of the "Seven Wonders for a Cool Planet" in Eric Sorensen's new book because it works so well in summer to circulate cool air and in winter to push heated air down. For people who need tall shade trees as soon as possible, there's a cool site called fast growing trees below.

    I'm going to go make myself some iced tea! Thanks so much for enriching our Thursday with your thrifty green tips!

  3. Great tips, and still useful for our part of the country (Colorado). Starting now we still often have days into the 80s and 90s, but with very cool nights!

    We love to open our windows at night for a little fresh air. The only problem sometimes is noisy neighbors; however your dual window fan tip my be a useful to pull and push the air and a little white noise to drown out the yapping doggies!

  4. Thanks for the tips on where to place the fans. I never quite get where the best place to put them is, and in our new house, the windows that open are arranged kind of strangely. I am going to experiment tonight when the air cools down.

    My in-laws installed a whole-house fan that REALLY works. It does use electricity, but it is a lot more energy-efficient than an air conditioner. It is a good option if you don't live in a humid climate.

  5. Thanks for these great tips. It's warm almost all-year around in Hawaii and I hate turning on the A/C, but you've provided great tips on limiting usage and increasing the effectivess!


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