In normal times, many professionals can give their homes a cooling break all day long while they’re at work during the summer. This year, however, many offices still have work-from-home policies in place. And kiddos who usually enjoy camp from May to August are also stuck at home. This means your air conditioning units are working harder to ensure a comfortable body temperature — and sanity.
Though seemingly necessary, all that air conditioning can run your electricity bill incredibly high. After all, there’s a big difference between just cranking up the AC at night versus having it blasting an icy breeze all day long.
Since you don’t want to be sweating as you take another Zoom meeting, but you also want to be mindful of your budget, how can you save money this season? Here, home experts offer their most cost-effective strategies for keeping a cool space.
Invest in a smart thermostat
Consider where you spend the most time during the day: The home office? The living room? Kitchen? Rather than having the AC running through every room, it’s better for your wallet to select specific areas only. Unfortunately, this is tricky if you have an older unit, or your home hasn’t been recently updated. Luckily, recent tech developments have created a loophole via smart thermostats, according to home flipper and Villa Real Estate Realtor AJ Olson Whitfield.
“It is time to invest in a thermostat that allows you to set a range. This helps your unit from working in overdrive to maintain a constant temp,” she explains. “Also, smart thermostats have eco settings to help you save on your energy bills. Look for the leaf on packages.”
Try this: Google Nest Learning Thermostat ($224, originally $249; amazon.com)
This is the first smart thermostat to receive Energy Star certification, and the company estimates it can pay for itself in bill savings within two years. As an additional benefit, you can geek out via its app, which shows your energy history, humidity levels, trends and more.
Plant greenery on the sunny side of your home
Believe it or not, your outdoor landscaping can have a significant impact on your indoor temperatures, according to interior designer Jodi Davison. By selecting climate-smart greenery and planting it on the sunny side of your home, you cut back on the sunlight that pours through your windows. Also, indoor plants create humidity from the leaves, cooling the air around the plant and room. Davison recommends ficus trees or ferns for the best results.
Try these: Ficus Lyrata Plant in 9.25 in. Grower Pot ($25.23; homedepot.com)
As beautiful as they are useful, consider purchasing a few of these. It’s a win-win for home decor — and temperature regulation.
Fiddle Leaf Fig ($195; bloomscape.com)
Measuring about 4 feet tall, this gorgeous plant comes with a planter in a lovely muted shade, and with plenty of instructions on how to keep it alive and thriving.
Use a ceiling fan
Have you looked up recently? There’s a reason ceiling fans have never gone out of style, since they are one of the easiest and most efficient ways to cool down any area.
“They continually circulate air throughout the room like a cool breeze and help to make the room feel colder than it really is,” explains Ward Schraeder, a DIY home improvement expert and co-host of “Bargain Mansions” on HGTV. In the summer, he says, the blade rotation should be set to force the air straight down for the best results.
Try this: Merwry 52 in. Integrated LED Indoor Ceiling Fan ($119; homedepot.com)
With more than 2,000 reviews, this sleek, energy-efficient fan is loved by reviewers, and it’s available in three colors: white, brushed nickel and matte black. The best part? It comes with a remote control, so you can turn it on without leaving your couch or bed.
Service your air conditioning unit
Whitfield says the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does not apply to your air conditioning unit. How come? She explains it’s a hard-run piece of equipment that requires frequent cleaning and maintenance.
“Replace those air filters and hose down/clean those fan coils, so your units are running at optimum efficiency,” she says. “This will save on your energy consumption and make sure you get through the hottest days with a functional unit.”
Try this: LG Electronics 14,000 BTU Dual Inverter Smart Window Air Conditioner ($549; homedepot.com)
If you’re due for a new window unit, try this Wi-Fi-enabled smart option from LG. Its line of inverter window models has been recognized by Energy Star’s Most Efficient Products, and it earned Emerging Technology Awards in 2018 and 2019.
Change out your sheets and pillows
One of the most stressful times to break out in a sweat is while you’re trying to fall — or stay — asleep. Rather than blast freezing air conditioning throughout the night or have a fan blowing on your face, experts like Davison recommend rethinking your bedding. A simple change in sheets, pillows and mattress protectors can make a big difference in your ability to catch z’s comfortably.
Try these: Celliant Sheets by Sleepletics (starting at $114.99; amazon.com)
These sheets are considered an FDA-determined medical device, offering luxury hotel-like feel with impressive technology to keep you fresh. They’re created with sateen, long-staple cotton and patented Celliant polyester yarns, and reviewers say it really does feel like they’re adjusting throughout the night to ensure you aren’t overheating.
Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Mattress Protector (starting at $99; brooklynbedding.com)
You can turn off the fans and the AC with this uber-cooling mattress protector. Pair with cotton or humidity-fighting sheet sets, and you’ll enjoy those summer nights.
Tempur-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling Pillow ($169; tempurpedic.com)
While most of the time folks flip over their pillows for the chilly side, with this option, every angle will offer a break from sweating. Thanks to the double layer of Tempur-Breeze Gel, you’ll also sink into comfort when you rest your head.
Tranquility Cool-to-the-Touch Weighted Blanket (starting at $39.97; walmart.com)
And if you love your weighted blanket but always feel like it tends to make you sweat, the popular weighted blanket brand Tranquility just launched a cooling weighted blanket that we’ve tried and love. Weights start at 15 pounds.
Install a solar attic fan
You may never enter your attic in the summer months, but it is hot, and that heat permeates the rest of your house. That’s why Whitfield suggests installing a solar attic fan to draw that hot air out and promote fresh air circulation.
“It costs a few hundred dollars, but it’s worth it, plus with the solar power you aren’t adding to your monthly energy bill, a definite win,” she adds.
Try this: Remington Solar 25-Watt 1450 CFM Black Solar Powered Attic Fan ($339; homedepot.com)
Not only does this lower the temps in your attic, but it also fights moisture that could promote mold growth. As a bonus, it takes the pressure off your HVAC system, thus lowering your electricity bills.
Keep a personal fan at your desk
When you’re under stress — say, from working remotely — it’s easy to get overheated. The uptick in anxiety causes a physical response too, which could make you feel super-hot for a short period of time. Rather than cranking up the AC, Davison suggests having a personal fan nearby that you can flip on when you need it.
Try these: Honeywell TurboForce Air Circulator Fan Black ($14.94, originally $15.99; amazon.com)
This small but mighty fan offers a breeze you can feel from 27 feet away. Compact enough to fit on a table or cool down an entire room, it features three different speeds and a 90-degree pivoting head so you can aim it exactly where you want.
Gulaki Hands Free Portable Neck Fan ($23.99, originally $29.99; amazon.com)
Wrap it around your neck and take the cooling powers of the fan wherever you go. Imagine how nice this would feel if you’re working outside, too.
Open the windows
If you’ve been cooped up in the house more than usual, you may crave the outdoor breeze more than ever. To keep your space cool, though, Whitfield suggests opening the windows in the early morning and late evening to circulate the air in your area.
Try this: Deconovo Room Darkening Window Curtain ($13.99; amazon.com)
When you aren’t letting the outside in, keep your shades pulled to reduce heat indoors. And to sleep in a little later, consider blackout curtains like these that will prevent even the smallest ray from sneaking through.
Use a portable air conditioner
If you live in an apartment or smaller home and don’t want to buy separate air conditioners for the living room and the bedroom, consider investing in a high-quality portable option. This way, you can take the cool air with you, and you avoid having two units running at the same time.
Try this: Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Air Purifier Fan ($608.19, originally $649.99; amazon.com)
Though expensive, this Dyson hot and cool air purifier fan is among the highest-rated out there. Not only will it clean your air, but it cools it down with 10 fan speeds. You set the preferred temp and then let it do its magic year-round. That’s right: It also works in the winter to save you money. It’s a smart choice for those with babies as well, since it’s Quiet Mark-certified, so it won’t wake them from slumber.
Install cellular shades
Though it may be a pricey upfront investment, installing energy-efficient blinds, like cellular shades, can reduce the overall AC use in your home. As Schraeder explains, a well-made window covering can reduce heat transmission from the outside in.
“If you keep them closed during the day, especially on the south side of your home, your energy bill will be substantially reduced since your AC will not have to work as hard,” he says.
Try this: Levolor Light-Filtering Cellular Shade ($78.88; homedepot.com)
Sometimes called honeycomb blinds, this type of window covering filters the light that flows into your home. This not only creates a pretty ambient effect that makes for beautiful light, but the cell shape builds a barrier between the window glass and your space. In other words: It keeps it more refreshing.
Close your vents and run a fan
If your home is multilevel, remember that heat rises and cold air falls, Schraeder says. Thus, one of the easiest ways to reduce waste in your cooling bill is to shut your lower-level AC vents and open the upper-level vents. Or vice versa, depending on where you spend the majority of the day.
“If you wish to have a more consistent temperature throughout the home, run your fan continuously and make sure your cold air returns are unobstructed,” he continues. “This allows just the fan to circulate cool air throughout the home.”
Try this: Lasko 2510 Oscillating Tower Fan, 36 Inch ($50.99; amazon.com)
From one of the most trusted brands for high-quality products, this oscillating tower fan from Lasko can cool a larger area. Plus, it has a variety of colors and designs, so you can find something that seamlessly blends into your home decor.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.