Best use of appliances reduces need to cool your house
There are plenty of ways to heat colder parts of your home without raising the thermostat. Determining your heating needs on a room-by-room basis will help save energy in areas of the home that aren’t used frequently.
The appliances that come to mind when you’re trying to cool down your house are usually electric fans and air conditioners. But other appliances in your home contribute to how hot air accumulates and forces your cooling devices to work harder to keep you and your family comfortable.
Using appliances like washers, dryers and dishwashers generate considerable heat. Often, because of their proximity to the kitchen, they’re adding to heat from the oven and cooktop, which requires room fans and AC to work longer.
The best way to reduce the heat from household appliances is to run them during the early morning or evening hours. While that delays getting chores done, it will keep your home cooler during the hottest part of the day.
How you use your major appliances also has an effect on how efficiently they run. You may think that means loading the washer as much as possible, but stuffing it to full capacity is a mistake. There should be some space for the clothes to agitate freely and clean properly.
More importantly, filling the washing machine too much will likely require you to do two drying cycles. Dryers should have about 25 percent empty space during each cycle so clothes can move around and dry completely, and more unfilled space when you’re drying bedsheets and blankets.
While you need very hot water in a dishwasher, you don’t necessarily need a heated drying cycle, which can be disabled on most models. Heated drying helps prevent water spots on dishes, but as long as you use a rinsing agent for the same purpose, there’s no need for both.
After rinsing food left on dishes, place items in the dishwasher rack to maximize your cleaning loads, cut down on the number of cycles you have to run and reduce the amount of heat that’s released into the house. Bottom racks work best with plates facing into the center of the appliance. Cups facing down and bowls placed at a downward angle clean best on the top row. Large, flat objects should be placed at a slant, rather than parallel to the door.
By using appliances correctly and during non-peak hours, you use less energy and prevent utility brownouts by easing up on the power grid. And there’s often a financial break because utility charges are typically less per kilowatt-hour during those times.
Insulation Is Among the Solutions to Keeping Your Home Cool
A well-insulated house does the same for your electric bill in summer as it does in winter – it can reduce your energy use. By getting the most out of the right appliances, you can drive down electricity use, but don’t underestimate the role that insulation plays in this equation.
The point of insulation is to keep air from penetrating your home through openings in its structure and foundation. In winter, it blocks hot air from escaping the dwelling and cold air from getting inside. In summer, the goal is to contain as much cool air as possible and not allow summer heat to penetrate the house enough to rob the air you cool with air conditioners and electric fans.
A look inside your attic, whether it’s a walk-up or crawl space, will show you how deep the insulation is and if it should be replenished. If there’s any indication that the insulation is damaged by mold, it should be replaced. The attic floor should also be sealed before insulation is applied.
There are contractors who specialize in this type of work and will do a better job of restoring insulation than homeowners can do themselves. Foam insulation sprayed on a dwelling’s interior frame, from attics to basements, is used more frequently and insulates better than traditional batting.
Closing the gaps
Start by doing a walk-through of your rooms to find out which areas are the coldest and why that is. Place a hand around the window edges to feel for drafts or cold spots. A full window replacement is probably not necessary, but adding an insulating plastic sheet over windows that aren’t used in winter can block any small drafts you may have. Insulation kits are readily available at home improvement stores. They’re an inexpensive item that will earn their purchase back in no time by cutting your utility bills.
If you have curtains or drapes on an unused window or placed on windows that are only used for part of the day, pull them closed to prevent the cold from entering the house. For windows with no coverings other than a shade, consider adding a coordinating curtain set that will help insulate the window.
More efficient heating
To compensate for keeping down the thermostat, many people find electric heaters fit their needs when trying to heat a small room or concentrating heat in part of a large room. There are many types of space heaters to choose from, but one model that many homeowners select is a low-profile heater. It can be placed unobtrusively on the floor and provide heat at this low level in the same way that baseboard heaters do.
Often equipped with timers and tip-over safety switches as features, these heaters offer convection heat that circulates warm air upward. Another benefit is that they work without fans, so there’s no sound to interfere with listening to music or TV. They can be transported easily wherever you need them with handy carry handles.
Even when using an efficient and compact space heater, keeping that precious warmth from escaping your home should be a priority throughout the cold months. Beyond doors and windows, keep the fireplace flue closed when no fire is burning and make sure that home features like recessed lighting, outlets and light switches are well insulated to block drafty spots around them.
Consider where your fans are placed for their best performance
Before you choose an electric fan, consider the environment where it will be used. For instance, you’re asking too much of the appliance if your windows are drafty and your home isn’t well insulated. You’ll be surprised at the difference some weather stripping can make to help fans retain cool air indoors on even the sultriest days of summer.
Determine where you will plug in your fans. Don’t use an outlet that’s already servicing a number of other appliances or electronic devices, because the circuit could become overloaded. However, since you’ll cool down certain rooms only at times when they’re occupied, try sharing outlets by pulling the plug on some devices when the fan is needed more.
Wherever you place fans to work in tandem with air conditioning, they’ll help you save energy and lower your utility bill. Also, whether they’re window fans or desktop models, fans direct a cool breeze to areas where you need it most.
There are many fans that are built for safety as well as convenience. Fused safety plugs, for instance, will detect a potentially dangerous electrical fault and automatically shut off the fan.
Fans should also be dusted periodically. Pet hair, airborne particles and dust can accumulate in the crevices of the fan base and on the blades. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, most fans are easily disassembled for occasional vacuuming.
Don’t just leave the fans in one place and forget about it. Moving your fans to where they’re needed most, and locating them strategically to spread cooled air, will ensure that your appliances are working at an optimum level.
The safest place to put your electric fans is on a flat surface. Some floor models come with small knobs that keep them slightly elevated and add to their stability. However, always set up your fans in places out of the reach of children and pets.
Many fans also have timers for when you forget to turn them off or to allow only as much cooling that you need for the space you’re in. Automatic shut-off features are handy, particularly when you’ve turned in for the night and don’t want to get out of bed to turn off the fan.
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