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With temperatures expected to hit the 100 degree mark here in Chicago tomorrow, how do you keep your home cool without sending your electric bill through the roof? There are a few free, simple steps you can take to get a handle on your cooling costs during this heat wave:

1. Set your thermostat to a reasonable temperature (somewhere around 80 degrees if someone is in the house, a couple of degrees warmer if you are at work or school most of the day). A programmable thermostat will allow you to set the A/C to kick them temperature down just before you return home, and will cost around $50.

2. Turn on ceiling fans to keep the air circulating. This pulls the cooler air up from the floor and brings it to where it is most useful – where you live!

3. Close window shades, particularly those with sun exposure. This will block light and heat from entering your home, as well as holding in the cooler air that could otherwise escape through glass and seep around windows.

4. Don’t just close the windows and doors – make sure they are securely latched. This allows the weatherstripping to seal firmly, again slowing down heat transfer.

5. Turn off lights, television, computers, etc. when not in use. Not only do all of these appliances eat energy, they also generate heat, something you definitely don’t need in triple digit temperatures. Sorry, Fido, no Animal Planet for you. Go take a nap instead!

6. Eat light and cool or cook out. In other words, don’t use your oven during hot weather. Again, it heats up the house. Besides, fruits, salads, and other lighter foods take less energy to digest, keeping your internal temperature cooler as well!

Those are the short term steps you can take to hold down your energy costs this week. As for the long term, check out these areas of your home to see where you can improve:

1. Are your walls and attic sufficiently insulated? Heat and cold radiating in and out can push energy costs through the roof (OK, pun intended)!

2. Installing energy efficient windows can dramatically decrease your heating and cooling bills. Check out our previous posts for examples.

3. Roof and attic vents such as vented ridge caps, attic fans, and vented soffits allow heat to dissipate instead of keeping it trapped in your attic, making your cooling system work harder.

4. Make sure your cooling system is efficient and operating at it’s best so it doesn’t have to work so hard to keep you cool.

Since we have just replaced our roof, including adding venting, I’m curious to see what impact this has on our cooling costs over the summer. I’ll be pulling out last year’s bills for comparison and will keep you posted on what I find.

In the meantime, don’t forget my energy savings tips for this heat wave, and contact your contractor for energy saving ideas for the life of your home!

Rae the Renovator