It's Fall, Here's How To Keep Your Home Comfortable
We're coming up to fall, my favorite time of the year for two reasons: it's football season, and it's the season of opening up the house to enjoy the great weather. I love the way my energy bill goes down as we don't need to use heat or air conditioning this time of the year. Any general tips for improving indoor comfort in the coming months? I really love this time of the year for the same two reasons, and although I'm not ready today to tell you who's going to win the Super Bowl this year, I can tell you a few tried-and-true strategies that will keep your home more comfortable this fall. Since I tend to write about this topic every year around this time, some of these may sound familiar, but I can assure you that they work. First of all, open windows whenever possible to take advantage of the available outdoor breezes. Although there are always security and safety concerns that dictate how open you can keep windows, especially at night, the bottom line is that operable windows are a great feature in a home, and taking the time to open them to get those breezes flowing through the house pays you back in enhanced comfort.The same thing applies to taking the time to open and close drapes or blinds as necessary. Shutting them tightly during the day keeps out the hot sun, and opening them at night helps get rid of heat that has been built up during the day. Use fans to keep more comfortable. Research shows that a fan blowing over your skin will make you feel as much as 3 degrees cooler than if that breeze wasn't hitting you, so sitting by or under a fan can make you feel much cooler when the weather is warm. Try not to let unwanted heat build up indoors. For example, wash clothes at night when the temperature is cooler. Instead of using the oven to cook a big meal, use the microwave, or even cook outdoors on your grill. This is the time of year when turning off unneeded lights is more important than ever. If you're still using incandescent bulbs in your lamps, remember that they might more accurately be called mini-space heaters because most of the energy they use goes toward heat they give off rather than light. Compact fluorescent bulbs, which have come down so far in cost that they're not too much more than incandescents, don't give off heat while giving as much light as you want while using far less electricity. By the way, turn off TVs and other appliances you're not using to further reduce heat that these products put out into the home. It's also this time of the year when exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen make a huge difference in keeping humidity out of the house. Keep them running for 10 to 20 minutes after a shower and you'll help lower indoor humidity levels significantly. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable, loose cotton clothes instead of warmer synthetics. Finally, even if your favorite football team is having a lousy season, you can still be a happy winner. Every month when your utility bill arrives, take out one of the bills from this past summer and compare the two. You'll see why the only thing better than the improved indoor comfort you get by saving energy is the money you save on your power bills.
Ken Sheinkopf is a communications specialist with the American Solar Energy Society (www .ases.org). Send your energy questions to [email protected])