The hottest time of the year is upon us and, unfortunately, rising temperatures lead to rising energy costs. The solution to your outrageous electric bills isn’t as simple as nixing the air conditioner, however. Most of us can’t stand to go without air conditioning in the summer and, in parts of the country, this lack of cooling could be downright dangerous. Don’t spend this summer maxing out your AMEX card on rising energy bills. There are some frugal adjustments you can make to your life that will chill you out, both figuratively and literally.
Cool Down Your Body
Drink Water – Are you drinking your 8-10 glasses a day? If you are like most people, then probably not. When you’re sweating a lot during the summer months, you should drink even more. Regular hydration helps to regulate your body regulate more efficiently. Even if you are just slightly dehydrated, your body will heat up.
A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water every hour or two. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, your body needs it. Some people think they can quench their thirst by consuming ice tea or a similar drink, but that isn’t true. Any kind of sugar or caffeine will only dehydrate you more. If you really want to cool down, plain water is the key.
Eat Smart – You can help your body stay cooler with the things you eat. Large, heavy meals can increase your body temperature. Try to eat more meals throughout the day that are smaller in portion. This is also a good weight loss technique, especially when combined with extra water intake. Cool snacks, such as Popsiclesand fruits are always good to have on hand in the summer.
Wet Yourself – With water, that is. When you aren’t drinking it, you can submerge in it. Even a little bit of water can help. Whether it is a cool rag on the back of the neck or a splash to the face, ‘agua’ is your friend throughout the summer months. Here’s an interesting fact: applying water to pressure points on your body, such as your temple or wrists, will cool you down faster.
Swimming is also a great way to stay cool and is one of the best ways to get into shape, which is an added bonus. You may not have a pool, but there could be a community pool in the area. The most frugal option, however, is going for a dip in a natural body of water, be it a lake, river or ocean. Baths will also do the trick, but excessive bathing to stay cool will only drive up your water bill.
Dress Appropriately – Just because The Fonz wore a leather jacket year-round doesn’t mean you will get away with it, too. In the hottest part of the year, dress appropriately to keep yourself cool. Even a dark t-shirt can overheat you. If you are out and about, stick to light colors and thin materials. Also, keep in mind thatnatural fibers will breathe easier than synthetic materials.
Much of your body heat escapes through your feet and head, which is why you need to cover both areas in the winter and leave them bare in the summer. In situations where you can’t go without footwear, opt for something open-toed. As for hats, they will insulate your head and drive up your body temperature. Hats are only necessary in the summer if you are going to be in direct sunlight for extended periods and need protection from UV rays. If you need to wear a hat, choose a light weave straw or natural fiber hat to allow ventilation.
Stay Out of the Sun – Yes, there are some activities you will want to partake in outside, but try to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, about mid-afternoon. Early morning and early evening are the most bearable daylight hours, though you may want to invest in some mosquito repellent. If you are outside when it is scorching, take some water with you and try to stay in the shade.
Cool Down Your House
Close the Blinds/Curtains – You need to keep your house as insulated as possible in the summer. Heat comes in through windows very easily if they aren’t covered. Sure, it’s pretty outside, but your air conditioner will work overtime if you draw your curtains/blinds. Make sure that everyone in the house knows to keep the windows covered. This simple rule will save you more money than you realize.
Keep the Doors Shut – “Close the door, we can’t afford to air condition the whole neighborhood!” Many of us heard that or something similar from our parents at one time, and they weren’t just being old grouches. They were struggling to pay theirhigh electric bill every month, just like you are now. Don’t let anyone in the house leave the door open for extended periods. If you are speaking with someone at the front door, step out and close the door or let that person in. Leaving the door open just a minute or two can really heat up the house.
Some people think that opening doors or windows will let a breeze in, thus cooling off the house. You won’t be letting the breeze in – you will be letting your cooler air out. For as long as your air conditioner is operating, it will always be cooler inside than it is outside.
Use Ceiling Fans – Using your ceiling fans is a great way to stay cool and save money. By circulating cool air, the fans will allow you to keep your thermostat at a reasonable level. Your air conditioner running at a moderate rate, combined with the use of ceiling fans, should make you feel quite comfortable during the summer. On that note, reversing the blades on your fans will assist your heater during the winter. Used wisely, ceiling fans can help you save money throughout the year.
Invest in Solar Screens – Although you are searching for ways to stay cool while saving money, this purchase will actually do both in the long run. Solar screens, affixed to the outside of your windows, will block the heat of the sun better than blinds and curtains combined. This is one of the cheapest ways to make your house more “green“, costing several hundred dollars for a modest-sized home.
If you live in a warm climate, these screens will probably pay for themselves with money saved in just one summer by reducing your energy costs. Still concerned about the initial price? Charging the screens to a low-interest rewards card should reduce the sticker shock. Also, you will be able to deduct the cost of the screens from your taxes the following year, so save that receipt!
Weatherstrip Your Doors and Windows – Weatherstripping your doors and windows will allow for even more insulation, which is helpful in both summer and winter. You may not even realize that cool air is seeping out of your house during the summer through tiny gaps around the doors and windows. Likewise, the cool air seeps back into your house during the winter. Weatherstripping is a simple DIY project that will cost a nominal fee when compared to the money you will save each month. Combining weatherstripping with solar screens is optimum and you will be able to see the difference in your energy bill as soon as the first month.
If you are having a rough time sweating it out in the hot sun this summer, then your rising energy costs probably don’t make you any happier. However, there are simple ways to make both your body and your home more relaxed. The above tactics will not only improve your personal comfort and reduce your monthly bills, they will help you protect the planet by conserving energy. It is a winning combination for everyone.