Beating the summer heat

If you’ve been dreading the high temperature days ahead, you are not alone! When fans are futile or the air conditioner has to run all day, tempers can flare and even the cheeriest dispositions can be put to the test! In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore some strategies to make your home cooler and more efficient this summer!

The first thing to consider is our practices at home. Behavioral changes alone can have a great impact on your comfort and energy use. Use the following bullets to guide which actions you can take!

Close blinds or shades to the sun during the heat of the day

Close windows early in the day and minimize traffic going in and out of the house

Avoid using appliances (cooking, laundry, dishwasher) during the hottest part of the day

Make meals that don’t require cooking or consider cooking outside on the grill

Use a programmable or smart thermostat and establish a cooling schedule

Use ceiling or portable fans to augment the effect of central or zonal (room or window air conditioners) air conditioning — likewise, turn off fans when not occupying a room

Open windows at night and generate a cross breeze to bring in cooler air from outside and give the air conditioner a break

For homes with central air, use the fan setting at night when windows are open to help circulate air and bring in cooler outside air

When considering indoor temperatures, try not to fixate on a particular number, rather consider the difference between outside and inside temps. It will be much harder for your cooling systems to cool to 70 degrees when it is 95 degrees out than 80 degrees. Experiment with increasing indoor temperatures as it gets hotter outside.

The second thing to consider is the efficiency of your home. Use the following bullets to consider which efficiency upgrades to consider!

Lack of attic and/or wall insulation

Poor air sealing and duct sealing (air leaks in and out of the home)

Broken, leaky or old single or double pane metal framed windows

Old, inefficient cooling equipment — outside units perform best and last longer in a shaded spot clear of debris and vegetation

Regular maintenance of heating/cooling equipment — including changing air filters as recommended by the manufacturer

A professional home energy audit is a great way to evaluate your home’s efficiency and receive prioritized recommendations for actions to take. Locally, the Sustainable Living Center provides low cost audits through its Community Energy Efficiency Program. For information call 509-524-5218 or visit our website at

Finally, though these bullets include immediate, no-cost options and mid-term moderate investments in your home’s infrastructure, longer-term actions should also be considered. Landscaping for energy efficiency is a strategy that is often overlooked and can be employed not just for cooling, but for winter heating and wind protection as well. When building or remodeling, factors such as home orientation, overhangs, building materials and even roofing and siding colors can make an impact on comfort and efficiency. Through awareness and taking some deliberate steps to reduce your ‘heat print’, you’ll find it easier to keep cool and save energy and money in the process!

Erendira Cruz is the executive director of the Sustainable Living Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Montana State University.