3 cool energy-saving home improvements for summer

By Iris Price

For ImprovementCenter.com

Published: Friday, July 11 2014 5:10 p.m. MDT

Summer has finally arrived, which means you're going to feel hotter — some days a lot hotter than others.

Getty Images

Enlarge photo»

Editor's note: This article originally ran on ImprovementCenter.com. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Summer has finally arrived, which means you're going to feel hotter — some days a lot hotter than others. For those who have central air conditioning and are constantly giving in to turning the thermostat down as the temperature goes up, the arrival of your energy statement may bring a rude awakening.

Here are three energy-saving home improvements you can use to help cut summer cooling costs now while avoiding potential warm-weather meltdowns from either the heat or receipt of your utility bills:

Efficient central cooling systems

Going a few scorching hot days without your central A/C because it has conked out from neglect might save you a few dollars on your electric bill, but the repairs can set you back several hundred. A yearly tune-up for your air conditioning system runs roughly $100. As part of the service, the technician typically cleans the coils, makes adjustments to connections and checks for any wear and tear on parts, among other things.

You should be changing your air filters at least every other month to keep your system running optimally. Dirty filters make your A/C work that much harder, meaning parts may wear out faster and energy bills can escalate.

If you haven't done so already, install a programmable thermostat that can be set to a higher temperature to keep the A/C from running too often when no one is home. Also, seal and insulate your ducts so your cooled air won't escape before it even has a chance to refresh you.

Cold climate tip: Most central air conditioning systems share a blower with the furnace. EnergyStar.gov recommends that if you are ready to purchase more energy-efficient cooling equipment and your furnace is more than 15 years old, ensure efficiency for both by replacing them at the same time.

Effective use of ceiling fans

Does installing ceiling fans lower your energy usage or increase it?

Here's how ceiling fans work: They do not cool your home, they cool your body. Nothing is getting cool if no one is in the room. This is not a zen question of whether a falling tree in a forest can be heard if no one is there. "Cool" is what you feel when you are there to experience the breeze of the fan on your skin as it evaporates your perspiration. You also need to be present to benefit from the fan's circulation, which mixes up the warm, stagnant room air with the cold air coming from your A/C to keep the room from feeling "stuffy."

If you want to save money, you should always turn off the fan when no one is in the room or else you are just adding to your energy usage for no reason. To help make more of a dent in your energy costs while using ceiling fans, raise your A/C thermostat five to 10 degrees. Even better, open the windows whenever it's cool outside, like during the night, and run the fans instead of your A/C.

When choosing ceiling fans, look for those with the highest CFMs — cubic feet of air per minute moved. Last but not least, have any new electrical wiring done by a licensed electrician. Summer is hot. Fire is hotter.

Cold climate tip: Buy ceiling fans with a "reverse" feature. In winter, reversing the direction that the fan blades spin will pull warm air down from the ceiling to where it naturally rises, keeping you warmer closer to ground level.

Window fashions for energy-efficient replacement windows