Cooling your home in hot weather is a vital part of being comfortable and in some cases can be essential to survival. Because of the need to conserve energy and keep cooling cost down, finding ways to cool you house without or with less use of your air conditioning system is important. Anything that you do that will lower the temperature inside your house or outside of your house will be beneficial. Using active and passive means to reduce the temperature of your home as a combined attack will give you the maximum heat reduction and savings on the cooling costs.
Start with the easy things first. Seal up all areas where your cold air can escape from your house. Make sure that all of the filters in your cooling system are clean so that air can flow freely through them. Have your air conditioning unit serviced once per year or so to make sure that it is leak free and full of coolant. It will run more efficiently if the cooling tower is clean. Keep the radiator on the outside portion of the system clean of debris.
You can usually keep your thermostat a few degrees higher in hotter weather. Your home will feel cool if the humidity is kept low so that your body can cool itself easier. When it is hotter outside, your air conditioner will run enough at higher settings to keep the air dry inside your house.
Get good shades or blinds to reduce the amount of sunlight that comes into your home. This is most effective when you can shield the south side of your house in the northern hemisphere and vice versa in the southern hemisphere. Installing glass that filters out the warming rays can be effective also, but the cost is more initially.
Use fans that can be moved from room to room to add extra punch to the cooling in the areas where you are going to be. The lower power requirements of the fans will be negligible compared to your cooling system. Even ceiling fans can make a big difference. If you want a big return, install an attic fan that can be used on cool evenings and nights to draw cooler outside air into your home. This can cost a bit to install, but it will pay for itself within a season or two.
Outside of your home there are few things you can do to help reduce the cost of cooling. Lighten the color of your house and roof. This will reflect more of the heat away from your home. Any planting of shrubs or trees can bring shade to lower the outside temperature of the house. Plants are also natural cooling systems. A large tree can be the equivalent of running a room sized air conditioner 24 hours per day.
Obviously, you can dress cooler when inside the house. Try not to do your baking when it is scorching hot outside. Your clothes dryer needs to be well-vented and ran sparingly. Even using less hot water can save money on cooling. Run your dishwasher overnight. You can also try running your refrigerator at a slightly higher setting. If it keeps your food cool enough, it will save you on the refrigerator cost, and it will reduce the heat that the compressor adds to the interior of your house.
You can also reduce the number of trips in and out during the hot times of the day. This will help keep the heat out and the cool in. Exercise in the evening or early morning. You will feel cooler and not be as tempted to crank the thermostat downward. Drink plenty of water and cool drinks. This will make you feel cooler.
Finally, anytime that you are going to be away during the day, turn up that thermostat to a temperature that will not wilt your plants or melt your candles. It will still save money. You can turn it back down if needed in the evening when it is cooler outside and your unit will not have to labor as hard to reduce the heat.