Did you know that your air conditioner is designed to only drop the temperature in your house by a certain range of degrees? For example, some air conditioners may only be able to cool your home to 20 degrees below the temperature outside. If the high temperatures in your area only reach around 85 degrees, that's fine – you can easily bring your home down to a nice cool 75 degrees or so. But if you live in a hot climate, with temperatures that routinely exceed 100 degrees in the summer, then you may have trouble cooling your home below 80 degrees or so. This can leave you feeling hot indoors as well as outdoors. Here are a few things you can do to help your air conditioner keep you cool while the temperatures outside climb this summer.
Add Some Indoor Wind
Running a ceiling fan can help your air conditioner cool you down more efficiently. When you set the ceiling fan to run counter-clockwise, it grabs the cool air in the room and pushes it down toward the floor, making it more accessible to you. The wind from the fan also pushes heat away from your body, the same way that you can cool hot food down by blowing on it. Even though your breath isn't cold, you push the heat away from the food. Fans do the same thing for your body. If you're sweating, the fan also cools you by evaporating the sweat on your body.
A ceiling fan won't add much to your electric bill – it costs about $1.20 a month in electricity for each ceiling fan you run in your home. In many cases, running fans can help make the temperature in your home comfortable enough that you can actually turn your thermostat up a few degrees, which can result in an overall savings on your electric bill each month. If ceiling fans aren't an option in your home, consider investing in a few standing fans or box fans, which can have a comparable cooling effect on your home.
Create Some Shade
Proper landscaping can help you decrease the heat in your home. If your air conditioner can only lower the temperature by 20 degrees or so, then you'll be cooler if the outside of your home starts out at a lower temperature. You can achieve a cooler outdoor environment by planting shade trees around your home.
Choose semi-evergreen trees to act as shade trees for your property. This category includes Arizona cypress trees and Mexican white oaks, among others. They keep their leaves year round, so you'll have all the shade you need even if you have particularly long summers. Don't just shade the house – position trees to shade the outdoor air conditioning unit as well. You'll need to leave a few feet of clearance so that you don't hamper airflow around the unit, but the shade will help prevent overheating so that your air conditioner will function more efficiently.
Draw the Curtains
Your windows are one of the main entry points for heat in your home. The sunshine comes through your open curtains, and it brings the heat along with it. Just closing the curtains or blinds can have a big effect on your air conditioner's ability to cool the house -- by shutting out the sun, you also remove some of the heat that your AC unit is competing with.
You may even want to consider heavier curtains for your windows if you're having a lot of difficulty keeping your cool in the house. Heavy drapes can have an insulating effect on your home at a far more affordable price than you'd pay to replace your windows with more insulated glass. If you really can't give up your view of the backyard, another alternative is to have your windows covered with heat resistant window film. This is much like tinting the windows on your car – you can still see out, but the heat can't get in as easily, and you'll have more privacy as well.
An air conditioner is a great thing to have, but it has its limitations. When you understand those limitations, it's easy to find ways to compensate for them and boost your air conditioner's effectiveness. Consider talking to your HVAC contractor for more about this topic.