Tips for keeping your home cool during summer heat waves

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Picture July in Missouri and Illinois, and you’ll probably think of our characteristic hot, humid weather. On top of that, the southern U.S. and Mexico have been experiencing record-breaking heat recently.

It’s tempting to blast the air conditioning on days like these, but for many, running the AC at full tilt all day is cost-prohibitive. Air conditioners eat up a lot of energy. They account for six percent of the nation’s electricity use, costing homeowners a collective $29 billion annually.

Things you can do at home will help keep your cooling bills down during heat waves. A little housekeeping can go a long way toward reducing costs – and for bigger repairs, maintenance or replacements, you can find a reliable contractor at BBB.org.

BBB’s tips for keeping your cool this summer:

  • Insulate properly. Beat the heat by making sure window AC units are installed snugly, and insulate any gaps around them. Check your AC ducts for proper insulation (or find a trustworthy contractor at BBB.org to help you). Weather-strip your doors and windowsills to keep cool air inside the house where it belongs.
  • Keep it clean. The U.S. Department of Energy says cleaning or replacing your air conditioner’s filters every month or two during hot months can lower the unit’s energy consumption by 5-15%. Check and clean your evaporator coil annually, and trim back any plants that might be limiting airflow.
  • Keep the air flowing. Ceiling fans and window fans use far less energy than central AC. They can help you cool your home without needing to turn down your thermostat.
  • Don’t run your AC if you don’t need it. Save money and help your AC cool more effectively by turning it off at night or opening windows on cooler days.
  • Use temporary window reflectors. In extreme heat, installing reflective materials between your curtains and windows can help keep temperatures down. Minimize the amount of sunlight in the home by drawing the curtains.
  • Stay on top of repairs and maintenance. Visit BBB.org to see BBB Business Profiles, customer reviews and complaint history for local HVAC companies and contractors who can help keep your AC in good shape. Always confirm that the company or contractor is licensed and insured.
  • Get multiple quotes. Get at least three estimates for any air conditioning repair, maintenance or replacement. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used. You can use BBB’s Get a Quote service to request quotes from trusted Accredited Businesses.
  • Consider switching to a high-efficiency unit. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that switching to a high-efficiency air conditioner can reduce its energy use by 20-50 percent – which means you’ll save on cooling costs. Some models are also eligible for a tax credit. Industry groups like the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers provide appliance ratings and other tips for consumers. Your HVAC contractor can help you find energy-efficient options and can provide the Manufacturer Certification Statement for any equipment you plan to purchase.

Don O’Brien is the regional director for the Quincy Better Business Bureau. Contact him at dobrien@quincybbb.org or (217) 209-3972.

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