Summer can feel like a tropical paradise for Minnesotans. The sun stays out longer and so do the people—who can blame us? Whether you’re weekending up north at the cabin, lounging on the lake, or grilling in the backyard, Minnesota summers are all about soaking up the sun in the great outdoors.
But the warmth of the sun brings with it rising indoor temperatures, humidity, and perhaps worst of all: higher home energy costs. Approximately 30% of your monthly summer utility bill comes from the energy it takes to cool your home. The national increase in utility costs has made it feel like homeowners must choose between comfort and savings when spending time indoors.
Though there’s the promise of a heat-rejecting, ultra-white exterior paint that could replace air conditioning systems entirely—that future is not quite here. Short of waiting for the next technology breakthrough, you might be wondering: How can I balance staying cool at home while not sweating my energy bill this summer?
Thankfully, you don’t need to dry out your savings to reduce home energy costs. There are a variety of quick and inexpensive ways to get your thermometer needle moving in the right direction.
Air Conditioning System
On average, running an air conditioner costs about $0.55 per hour, which comes out to about $5.55 per day. Those costs can add up quickly, so it’s critical to make sure your physical air conditioning unit and HVAC systems are functioning at the highest level of efficiency.
- Get an A/C system inspection. These inspections feel costly upfront, but experts can help you identify repairs before they’re needed, potentially saving you thousands of dollars over the lifespan of your cooling system.
- Clear debris from the physical outdoor A/C unit. Check for unwelcome pests, leaves, and other yard waste that may be obstructing your unit from doing its job.
- Replace the HVAC air filter in your furnace or air vent filters every 30-90 days. Cleaner filters allow air to flow more freely through your system.
The thermostat holds a lot of power in keeping your home cool. Knowing when and how to set the temperature makes a difference in your bill.
- Program your thermostat. Most homes now have programmable thermostats, which save on average about $180 per year on your utility bill. Set your thermostats to reduce the temperature at specific times of the day, so you’re saving energy for the times you need it most. Purchasing and installing programmable thermostats for the first time can be done for under $600.
- One degree. Think about temperature in increments. If you can handle setting your A/C system to 73 instead of 72, you’re already saving money. Each higher degree you set your thermostat in the summer equals savings.
Windows and Doors
Proper window and door use in the summer can make a major difference in regulating the overall temperature of your home.
- Keep your windows closed on hot days; open on cool nights to get more air circulation.
- Draw the blinds or curtains whenever possible during the daytime hours. This helps keep direct sunlight from entering rooms. Pale or lighter-colored blinds and curtains do not absorb as much heat as darker colors.
- Install or apply heat-reducing films to windows, including door windows. These reflective materials come in all shapes and sizes for whatever window you need to cover, plus they are generally inexpensive to purchase and easy to install.
- Inspect and seal noticeable gaps around door and window frames. Install draft guards to the bottom of your doors. This will help ensure the cool air can’t escape and the hot, humid air can’t force its way inside.
It’s time to dispel a myth. Fans don’t make a room cooler, but they do make it feel cooler. This feeling can make all the difference on a muggy summer day at home.
- Set your ceiling fan to run counterclockwise in the summer to draw the cooler air upwards; this will create a cooling effect in the room.
- Don’t have ceiling fans? Try setting up a box fan in front of a window to keep the air in a room circulating.
- Turn off fans when you leave home. This will cut down on electricity use.
- Run your bathroom exhaust fans whenever you’re at home. Doing so will expel the rising warm air to the exterior of your home.
Plant, Purchase and Use Shade Foliage
Whether you’ve got a green thumb or not, strategically planting shade trees or foliage that covers windows can also regulate interior temperatures, while beautifying your home’s exterior.
- Oak, Maple, and Elm trees are among the most popular shade trees in Minnesota. Oaks are some of the fastest-growing tall trees, taking only a few years to create enough cool shade for an entire yard.
- Get large house plants or foliage and place them strategically in front of windows or spaces that get a lot of sunlight.
Finding ways to inexpensively cool your home this summer is possible despite rising utility costs. These practical tips provide savings that can last over the (all too short) Minnesota summer.