Four ways to stay cool that don't involve your A/C

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On days when the temperature outside reaches into the 90s and 100s, most Americans rely on air conditioning to stay comfortable. Air conditioning is often considered a necessity in today’s world, but that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, you don’t have to look too far back to find a time when many Americans didn’t have A/C in their homes.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, roughly 87 percent of U.S households are equipped with some variety of air conditioning. That’s a significant increase from the 68 percent the EIA found to have air conditioning in 1993.

While the increased demand for temperature-controlled homes has helped Americans stay cool when the weather isn’t, it’s also increased our energy use and powering millions of cooling systems adds up.

EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017 estimates that U.S. homeowners used 247 billion kWh, about 18 percent of our total energy use, on spacing cooling in 2016. That is more energy than Mexico, Spain or Australia use in a full calendar year and brings our annual A/C bill to over $22 billion.

If you’re looking to save some serious energy – and money – this summer, consider going old school with these simple strategies to cool down.

  1. Skip the oven 

    Using appliances can raise the temperature in your home. Consider taking your cooking outside on hot days. Grilling is the easiest way to get delicious food all summer long without raising your cooling costs.

  2. Close the curtains

    Are you used to closing the curtains and blinds to keep heat in during the winter or to block out light while your sleeping? That same tactic also works to keep heat out during summer months. It might sound a little dreary at first, but it can be an effective way to prevent solar heat gain during the hottest hours of the day.

  3. Check for leaks

    A quick home check for spots where cool air is leaking out and hot air is sneaking in can save you big bucks. Windows, doors, skylights and attics can all be big culprits. Insulating your attic and walls, and sealing cracks and openings can make a world of difference.

  4. Look for ventilation opportunities

    Natural ventilation relies on the wind to create a “chimney effect” to cool a home. A simple natural ventilation strategy is opening windows to create a cross-wise breeze.

    Fans circulate air in a room, creating a wind chill effect that makes occupants more comfortable. Fans for cooling come in a variety of options, including ceiling, table, floor and wall-mounted.

    Whole house fans pull air in through windows and exhaust it through a home’s attic and roof. To ensure proper sizing and safety, professionals should install whole house fans.

Get more cooling tips from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Keeping cool shouldn’t cost you an arm and leg. These simple tips can help keep your energy bill reasonable.

If all else fails, let out your inner child. Summer offers plenty of fun ways to stay cool on blazing hot days. Running through a sprinkler, eating a popsicle, or cannonballing into the pool can take “staying cool” to a whole new level.

Information from Black Hills Energy's Keeping Energy Affordable blog
July 2017