Cheaper Summer Cooling
By Gary Foreman
Your recent article concerning summer cooling focused mainly on persons who own
their own home and can make changes such as adding insulation, providing shade
and shrubs, and replacing windows. In addition to fan usage, what can those of
us in apartments do to keep ourselves cool this summer?
Erica is right. Apartment dwellers feel the sting of higher cooling bills, too.
And, replacing windows or air conditioning units isn't an answer for them. So
let's see what we can do to reduce the amount she spends keeping comfortable
We'll begin with one that Erica mentions: fans. You probably can't put a ceiling
fan in a rental, but that doesn't mean that you can't use floor or table fans.
Studies show that even at 82F and 100% humidity, comfort can be maintained as
long as air is blowing across the skin. That moving air helps the body to
dissipate heat. And fans are a cheap way to move air.
But Erica was looking for some ideas beyond using fans. How about using colors
to cool you down? Sounds strange, but Kathy Wilson, editor of
says that it works. "Using cool colors while decorating your rooms is one of the
most cost effective methods of keeping cool during the summer months. Using cool
colors within a room immediately lowers the visual temperature, which is a very
Kathy suggests using colors from the blue and green family. "When the eye sees a
cool color, your brain relates it to cool water, fresh blue sky, or sweet spring
grass." You can add these colors to your room by using throw pillows, slip
covers, area rugs, room accents or even painting one wall.
Cool colors are great, but what can you do when the thermometer clears 80 and
keeps rising? While you can't eliminate the sun, you can banish other sources of
heat in your home. Cooking is a major heat generator. Use your oven and
stove-top as little as possible. Replace them with your microwave oven. Or cook
outdoors. And your BBQ isn't the only way to cook outside. A slow cooker can be
used on a porch or patio.
Summer is also a great time to consider a lighter diet. Avoid those heavy roasts
and casseroles. Not only will you look better in that swimsuit, but it takes
less energy (which creates heat) for the body to digest a simpler meal. How
about a dinner salad tonight?
Not only do you want to keep from generating heat inside your home, you also
want to keep the heat outdoors. If you have outside access to windows and doors,
caulking around them could be a good investment. Even if the landlord won't help
pay. Caulking is cheap and it doesn't take much time to run a bead to close up
Another way to keep heat outside is to prevent the sun from shining into your
home. Sunlight creates a lot of heat quickly. Especially when shining through a
clear window. We all remember using the sun shining through a magnifying glass
to set a leaf on fire. Draw your shades so you don't become that leaf! No
shades? Consider installing them yourself. Even an inexpensive roll-up shade can
make a big difference.
Next, Erica wants to help her air conditioner to work efficiently. Normal dust
will reduce airflow by about 1% per week. Experts advise cleaning or replacing
filters monthly. Disposable filters are cheap and anyone can learn how to
replace them. Any money you spend will be repaid in lower electric bills.
Reduce the amount of space you're cooling. Close off unused rooms. That means
shutting the door and the A/C vent.
If you have access to the outdoor portion of the A/C unit make sure that air can
flow around it. Even renters are allowed to trim bushes and shrubs that prevent
an air conditioner from working properly.
Many utility companies will inspect your A/C system for free. While your
landlord might not be legally required to act on their recommendations, they
might feel obligated to solve any problems that are found.
Finally, raise your thermostat as much as possible. For every degree you'll save
about 4% on your A/C bill.
Erica may not have all the options that a homeowner has. But that doesn't mean
she needs to be hot under the collar all summer long!
Gary Foreman has spent the last 30 years helping people get the most for their
money. He currently edits The Dollar
Stretcher.com website and newsletters. If you'd like more time and money