I love many things about summer–relaxed schedules, grilled dinners, sandal-clad feet–but I don’t care for the heat that rolls in like a smothering blanket and doesn’t let up for weeks or months.
Some of us don’t have air conditioning at home to keep us cool, and others don’t want to foot the electricity bill that comes with nonstop a.c. operation. Fortunately, we can all rely on frugal ways to stay cool this summer.
Switch Out Your Morning Drink
When you know the day is going to be a scorcher, start your morning with a refreshing cold beverage instead of a steaming mug of joe. Learn how to make a delicious iced coffee beverage so you can get your caffeine fix without warming up your whole body.
A simple iced coffee can be made by letting coffee grounds steep in water overnight. In the morning, strain out the grounds and add ice. If you’d like to get fancier, try your hand at Iced Coffee Smoothies or Cold Brew Lemonades.
Although not as powerful as air conditioning units, fans can do an effective job of moving air around your house to help you stay cool. The major upside of fans is that they are much, much cheaper to operate. Window air conditioner units cost about $40 per month to run, and central air systems average $150 per month. The unassuming fan–whether ceiling-mounted or box-style–eats up less than $5 per month.
Even if you don’t have central air, you can use your furnace like a fan. Leave the heat off, but turn on the blower, which will help circulate air.
Install a Smart Thermostat
For those with central air, consider installing a smart thermostat. You can program a smart thermostat to run the a.c. at a low temperature during the times when you’re normally home and awake. Set it to increase the temperature when the house is empty or everyone is sleeping.
Studies have found that some homeowners have saved about 15 percent over their previous cooling bills by installing one of these devices. If you see significant cost savings because of your new smart thermostat, you might recoup its purchase price in just a year or two. To speed that process along, check to see if your energy company offers a rebate on energy-saving thermostats.
As we all know, heat rises, so the upper levels of your home are likely to be hotter than the lower levels. HVAC systems can have a harder time cooling the top levels of a house. Dark roofs that absorb sunlight can also warm up the upstairs of a home.
Instead of fighting against this, spend as much time downstairs as you can. Ground levels are usually cooler than second stories, but basements are best. You might find that your basement is as much as 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the house. Homey touches like rugs and throw pillows can make a drab unfinished basement more inviting.
Keep Cooking to a Minimum
Appliances like the oven and the dishwasher can really heat up your house. Whenever possible, serve cold meals like sandwiches or salads that don’t require many cooked ingredients. Eating chilled foods on a hot day can help your whole body feel cooler and more refreshed.
Simple meals like these often require fewer dishes, so you’ll be able to run the dishwasher less frequently. When you do need to run kitchen appliances, try to do so in the evening when temperatures are lower.
Seek Out Water-based Entertainment
A splash of cool water is refreshing on a hot day, so spend as much time as you can getting wet this summer. A backyard pool makes this convenient, but it’s not a necessity. You can also splash around in the sprinkler with your kids or fill a wading pool with cold water in which to soak your feet. If you’re really feeling wild, engage your family in a water gun fight.
For those times when you need a more serious soak, ask around for friends or neighbors who will let you use their pools. If visiting a community pool is a better option for you, look into getting a season pass, which can often pay for itself long before the end of the summer.
Visit Public Spaces
Malls, libraries and other public areas are going to crank up their air conditioners all summer long whether or not you’re there. As long as they’re shelling over big bucks to keep their buildings cool, you’d might as well take advantage of their free-to-you cold air.
Before heading out for the day, turn your own air conditioner to a warmer setting so you aren’t cooling an empty house more than necessary. Then, pick an air-conditioned spot to pass the hottest hours of the day. If you need more to do than window shopping or relaxing with a good book, look into free indoor programs offered by your local library or community center.
Do you feel prepared for hot weather, or are you dreading the summer months? To help keep myself cool, I plan to stay near the pool as much as possible. Leave a comment with your cooling-down ideas, and please share this list of frugal summer tips with your friends