Keeping Cool for Pennies

Ok, I’ve officially made it this far in the summer with only turning on my central air conditioner once for a few hours in total this summer.  I also live in Regina, where the highs this week are all well over 30 C and we have days that get up to 40 C every year.  How do I do it?  Well a few words for you: heat tolerance and heat management.

Heat Tolerance is a very important concept to have down.  Accept right off you will not keep your house at 21 C during the late afternoon.  It simply won’t happen with an outside temperature of over 30C for hours on end.  So far we have typically kept our indoor high to around 24C.  Is it warm? Yes, but it isn’t uncomfortable.  If you can stand that you can save huge amounts on your power bill avoiding using your air conditioner.

Heat Management is really just being a little smart with the natural cycles of the day.  Here’s the steps to make it work:

  1. Insulate.  Yes, you read that right.  Insulation and caulking do keep heat in during the winter and also helps keep heat out during the summer.  Add insulation where you can and seal it where you can and save money all year round.
  2. Temperature Gauges.  To effectively manage heat you will need at least two thermostats.  One inside the house and one outside.  When your ground floor temperature is within two degrees C of your outdoor temperature start opening all your windows to let the cooling start.  You might be actually heating up the main floor sightly, but the air movement will feel good so do it anyways.
  3. Move Air.  Depending on your location your evening might have no wind which makes it hard to cool anything down with no air movement.  So use a fan upstairs by a window to pump out the hot air.  The cooler air will be come in all by itself on the first floor.  A fan or two for air movement cost pennies a day compared to dollars to run the air conditioner.  Keep the windows open over night (unless you expect some rain).
  4. Close Up.  Close all the windows and all the blinds in the house by 7am or earlier.  Yes the air might still be a bit cooler outside, but you will have to face the fact you will be better off to keep the currently cold air in than start heating the house when the sun comes up.
  5. Keep Out the Sun.  This one is critical.  The more sun you can block the cooler your house will stay.  If possible block the sun from the outside on your south facing windows.
  6. Keep the Outside Doors Closed.  Do you stand in front of your fridge with the door open?  If so, someone likely told you that you were wasting power.  Guess what, your house is now like a big fridge.  Keep the door closed to keep it cooler.
  7. Humidity Control.  Depending on your climate a dehumidifier may also be a great way to keep things comfortable in the house.  I don’t have on because it really doesn’t get all that humid where I live.
  8. Repeat.  Then as the evening cools off go back to step two and repeat it all.

If you got other ideas for your location, please share.

8 thoughts on “Keeping Cool for Pennies”

  1. Your point 5, just closing the windows, is really worthwhile. It works! We don’t have central ac, so never feel tempted to turn it on. Do you not have to keep the temps down for your daycare business?

  2. Guinness416,

    No there actually is no requirement to keep the house below a certain temperature. Actually most of the time when it gets this hot the kids are outside in the kiddie pool in the backyard so the AC would be useless.

    Tim

  3. It has been a very cool summer here in Ottawa and we have not turned on the A/C once. In fact there have been a few days where I’ve been bundled up in slippers, a sweater and flannel pajama pants because it’s so cold in our house.

    But even on the warmer days (this weekend it got up to 28) the house stays very cool. I wonder what this means – in the winter will we save on heating because apparently our insulation is pretty good? It will be our first winter in this house. Here’s hoping 🙂

  4. I have central air, and I am fine to use it when necessary, I won’t refuse to turn it on to save a few dollars. If you don’t need it, fine… but I won’t suffer (I’m a winter guy) just to save a few dollars.

  5. No AC in my house… it was 36 degrees here in Edmonton yesterday.

    But, we do have a basement that is almost completely below grade and is usually 10 degrees or more cooler, so we just hide down there during hot days.

  6. Tyler,

    That’s why I mentioned heat tolerance first. It’s really somewhat personal what temperatures people find warm or cold. I’m fine at 24C, but 25C starts to get gross for me.

    Sarlock,

    Good point. Basements can be good hiding places from the heat.

    Tim

  7. Great tips! These are exactly what we do and are able to maintain a comfortable temperature in Calgary for all but a couple of the hottest days (usually only after a week of hot temperatures) for which we camp out in the basement.

    One other suggestion for those with attached garages is to insulate the garage; I hear it can make a big difference and hope to do it soon. Another think we’ve considered is a wind powered exhaust fan for the attic. I would think it could make a bit of a difference as well; although perhaps more insulation would be better.

    Also, you’ll probably want to close any main floor windows at night to keep out the burglers. There has been a string of robberies in our neighborhood lately taking advantage of open windows.

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