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Tips to Beat the Heat

A vicious heat wave is about to hit Chicagoland—and much of the country. Even if your air conditioner is up to snuff, it may still have trouble keeping your house cool, because there’s only so much of a temperature differential it can overcome. Add in the likelihood of brownouts or blackouts from an increase in overall strain on the power grid, and there’s the potential for a very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation. It was just about six months ago where we shared some tips to keep your home safe during the extremely cold polar vortex. So here are some simple ideas for the opposite, to keep you and your home a bit cooler during these hot days. They’re each small steps, but they can add up to big energy savings.

Keep the shades drawn. This one always feels like a bit of a bummer around these parts, since sunshine is one of the greatest things about the eventual arrival of summer. After an epic winter, the sun warms our souls as much as our skin. But during a heatwave, letting that sun into your home greatly increases the interior temperature. Thankfully, it’s easy to prevent. According to the Department of Energy, simple medium-colored window coverings can reduce heat gains from the sun by 33%. Whenever possible, keep your curtains and blinds drawn, especially on windows with heavy sun exposure.

Fully close the windows. For many windows, especially casement windows and windows in older homes, there’s closed, and then there’s closed. If your windows are not sealed as tightly as they can be, hot air will seep in and cold air will escape, making it hard for your air conditioning unit to keep up. If you have casement windows, close and latch them. The cam action of the locking mechanism pulls the windows in closer to the sill than just cranking them shut, giving you a much better seal.

Change your air conditioner’s filter. A dirty filter will impede air flow, making the A/C unit work less efficiently and reducing the amount of cool air that reaches the farthest parts of the system. This is a quick, cheap fix that will help squeeze extra cooling out of your system when you need it most. If you haven’t changed your filter since last season, do it now.

Keep lights off. This is especially important if your home has incandescent or halogen bulbs. Up to 90% of the energy they use while creating light is actually turned into heat.. Flourescent and LED bulbs are much better in this regard, and put out much less heat. However, they do still create some heat, and since we’re trying to minimize unnecessary heat output, it’s better to shut off any light not needed. A side benefit is that you’ll use less overall energy, keeping load off of a likely strained power grid.

Cook outdoors. We know, it’s sweltering outside, and you want to stay inside for dinner. But using the oven or cooking on the stovetop is going to add unnecessary heat to your home. So unless you’re dining on salad and gazpacho, fire up the grill and take the cooking outside. Then retreat to your cool kitchen to eat in comfort.

Stay hydrated. This one won’t keep your home any cooler, but it will help keep you feeling cooler. Being dehydrated hampers your body’s ability to regulate its temperature, which can cause your internal temperature to creep above the average 98.6°. So if you’re feeling a little warm even with the A/C on, try a nice tall cup of ice water and see if that helps.

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