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Question of the Week: How do you save energy during a heat wave?

2009 July 27

Keeping cool in hot weather usually takes energy – turning up the air conditioner, driving to a swimming spot, and more.  But using more energy can affect the environment, too. Share how you keep from losing your cool.

How do you save energy during a heat wave?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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77 Responses leave one →
  1. macm permalink
    July 27, 2009

    What is the point of this if you provide questions instead of answers to these basic delimnas. The traditional solutions work, and if you don’t provide low cost (or any) alternatives then what’s the point of this?

  2. Laq permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I use ceiling fans and an attic fan rather then a/c they cool the house faster and with less electricity

  3. Patricia permalink
    July 27, 2009

    Drink a lot of water. Never drink bottled water however. It is easy to put your own water in a container!

  4. SunMan permalink
    July 27, 2009

    We use magnetic vent covers for area of house not in use during A/C (and heat times). We have a 3 story home. During the day, we are not upstairs in the bedrooms, so we close the vents and put magentic vent covers on top. The problem is with just closing the vent, you still lose a lot of A/C or heat. The vent cover eliminates lost of that loss (check yourself – next time A/C is blasting, go to a floor vent, close it and see how much you can still feel blowing through there).

    This (a) reduces all that loss and (b) it actually cools down the part of the house we are in faster. Looking at our bills, we calculate we reduce A/C energy use and costs by about 25% this way. Simple and cheap!

  5. Janet permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I don’t use air conditioning at home, haven’t for over 30 years. I use ceiling fans, I have very energy efficient windows and doors to keep out heat during the day. And I pour a cool drink, move the lawn chair to a shady spot and put my feet into a 50 gallon water trough filled with water which doubles as the cool off spot for my dogs!

  6. Michalene permalink
    July 27, 2009

    Lights off when ever possible (we have cfl’s so it is not so much a heat issue anymore). Use shades and curtains. Use the basement family room as it is cooler than the living room. BBQ instead of cooking inside – or cool foods like salads to keep us cooler. Fans were already mentioned. Thermostat up even higher when we are gone for the day. Shade trees by house. Keep the garage door down. Unneeded heating items (washer, dryer, computers, etc), kept off till it cools down.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I keep my thermostat on 82-84F. Use ceiling fans only in rooms that are occupied. I purchased a oscillating fan on a stand …easy to move and use it , especially in the kitchen. Eat salads – dishes that do not require the oven or top of the stove. Use the microwave. Keep blinds partially closed and keep all lights off unless you are occupying that room. Maybe a lamp. I know that sounds dark, dreary & dull….but I stay in my living area most of the time and have a sheer curtain over the patio door and do get plenty of light. I have a very efficient storm door at the front of the house and keep it open until the sun moves over the house. I have two cats so I leave the ceiling fans on in rooms where they stay during the day while I am work.

  8. Mark Kaplun permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I have my fans plugged to a motion detection switch (i.e. SensorSwitch) that turns the fans on when I’m in the room, and automatically shuts them off after I leave. The SensorPlug costs less than $15 and is well worth it.

  9. Chris S permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I keep as many windows open as I can and dress in lightweight fabrics that breathe.

    If that fails to provide relief, then I use a small fan directed to wherever it is I am working or resting.

    Wetting a cloth and placing that on the back of your neck will also help keep you comfortable.

  10. Sher Graham permalink
    July 27, 2009

    Ceiling fans are set on low and are used 27/7 during the year. I also set my thermostat at one level and keep it there during the heat wave times. If it gets cool at night, I turn it up to 80 and leave it there during the nights. Living in South Alabama requires a constant watch on temperatures. I have my office in my home so that requires a more constant temperature control than if I were only here during the evening hours. I also pull electronics out of the sockets that I only use once a day or week such as my washer and dryer, my microwave, additional lights, and turn off my printers when not in use at night. Taking small steps towards decreasing use of electricity will save on bills and is better for the environment.

  11. Francine permalink
    July 27, 2009

    we utilize a fan with rechargeable batteries and sit outside more – and when the wind is blowing just right – a hose with tiny holes is hoisted above to spray us with a fine mist of water

  12. Stevie permalink
    July 27, 2009

    There are some great ways to cool off that require little to no energy. If you live near a lake or stream, walk or ride your bike to it and enjoy the day. If you have a pool, invite the neighbors over for a pool party. Instead of sitting in your house in the air conditioning, find a shady spot outdoors, somewhere that has been in the shade for at least an hour; you’ll be surprised how cool it is. Shut off all lights; it will save energy and keep you cooler. And remember, fans are for cooling people, not rooms; if you’re not in a room, shut off the fan.

  13. Alice permalink
    July 27, 2009

    We keep all the windows closed, drapes drawn and spend time in our basement. We set our air conditioner for 78 degrees and will use the furnace fan to circulate the basement’s cooler air throughout the house. When we are outside, we make use of our patio umbrellas, or move the chairs under the old oak tree. We do as much as we can in the early morning or wait until evening hours – or delay chores to a cooler day. We let the grass grow a bit longer and cut less frequently (grass is 3 inches ).

  14. Chuck permalink
    July 27, 2009

    Crank up the A/C and turn on the fans.

  15. Mary G permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I turn on my air conditioner really high and open the windows. This way, I’ll stop the heatwave, and then people won’t need to turn their air conditioners on AND I’ll help fight global warming!

  16. Bryan Doradea permalink
    July 27, 2009

    si mantienes fresca tu cara podrás mantener fresco tu rostro.

    Masticar cubitos de hielo ayuda a mantenerte fresco y es algo super economico, Tambien recuerda que en una casa de dos plantas el lugar mas cálido durante el día es la segunda planta, pero en la noche el lugar mas caliente es la primera planta, es una rareza pero es cierto, evita estar en la segunda planta durante el día, asi estarás mas fresco en la primera planta.
    Un remedio casero para quitarte el calor es el siguiente:}
    necesitas una gaseosa (soda) que esté helada y que sea de sabor “sprite” o “fresca”, le agregas un poco de limón a tu gusto y lueg agregas sal y verás que hace efervecencia, lo agitas un poco y luego lo bebes, en 3 minutos abrás dejado de sudar y comenzaras a sentir heladito dentro de ti y te sentirás fresco..!

  17. Rotem permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I use ceiling fans and by using fans rather then a/c= less electricity.

  18. Gail permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I belong to the off peak/on peak plan here in Arizona. The temperature is lowered on my programmable thermomstat during off peak times when energy rates are lower and that seems to cool the house enough during on peak times when my thermostat is programmed at higher temperatures. Also, my pond pump is programmed to go off during on peak times. At this time, I use a bubbler for my Koi pond and the fish seem to do just fine. My monthly bill has gone down at least 25% in the summer. Not bad when it is 113 C.

  19. Anand permalink
    July 27, 2009

    we do not use AC in summer we just planted more tress around the house and we sprinkle water so it keep temp. down..and we keep windows open so it ventilate house n help in to down temp.

  20. issyDC permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I go to the pool!

  21. randaw permalink
    July 27, 2009

    Hang a set of dark tab curtains on existing rungs, pareos on IKEA clip rungs over smaller windows to shade interior from UV heat during day. We added efficient windows a couple of years ago and I keep those closed unless we have a cool morning breeze. I cook a veggie casserole early in am to reheat in microwave by portion for following couple of days. Or we eat fresh veggies raw from garden with cheese and crackers (or bread). I water vegetables very early or very late and only every couple of days, individually to limit water use. Swapped out all aerators with reducers & shower heads to 1.5. Shade lettuce with fabric, mulch with straw.

  22. Adele permalink
    July 27, 2009

    We use a Sun Oven. It cooks food perfectly, doesn’t use energy to heat the oven or stove, and doesn’t heat up the house thus helping to keep the AC costs down. We actually use it year round as it is so well insulated the cold doesn’t affect the heating and cooking. The food is very moist and tasty. The power of the sun is incredible.

  23. Robert Johnson permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I put a bed in the cellar, the cellar is that no A/C or fans are needed. No electricity at all.

  24. July 27, 2009

    In our house (in South Carolina) we use moving, dry air. Ceiling fans and a dehumidifier are worth a 5 to 6 degree higher setting on the house A/C system…

  25. Jackenson Durand permalink
    July 27, 2009

    The humidity is more problematic for human respiratory system than hot weather. In this circumstance the truth would be that; the (A.C.) systems would be better for human respiratory than open widows allowing this air humidity penetrating into homes.
    In my concern, to better preserve this precious energy, my showers timing would be increasing, I have been keeping all widows open. In case of high humidity, I have been opening my (A.C.) systems for 15 minutes in 24 hours in order that I would be able to balance humidity inside. While outside, I have being in search of eco-systems like Park Street in Massachusetts where trees and riverside would able to balance humidity again.
    When the humidity starts decreasing at night my widows are opening again to take some cool natural co2.

  26. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    July 27, 2009

    Well, I generally enjoy taking a cold shower then running around the house with my hair dripping wet, it feels awesome. We also have a pool within walking distance that we can take a dive into. Or even taking a few wash clothes, getting them soaking wet and then throwing them at each other in a water fight always helps! And it keeps things flowing positively :)

  27. April permalink
    July 27, 2009

    I keep the blinds drawn during the day to keep the sun out. I use ceiling as well as floor fans to keep the air circulating. I open as many windows as I safely can during the night and let in the cool air. I also have a community pool a short walk from my place so I don’t have to drive anywhere to cool off.

  28. Johnny R. permalink
    July 27, 2009

    The population keeps growing and demanding more electricity to survive the summer heat, so whatever efficiencies you install are overwhelmed. The problem is too many people. So, peacefully reduce the human population and recycle 100% of all waste and garbage. Otherwise, you’re just shoveling tech sand against the tide of overpopulation.

  29. Candace Gutierrez permalink
    July 28, 2009

    we usually go swimming at a lake or pool, open windows to the house, drink lots of water..however, since i live in New Mexico, sometimes the heat is very hard to escape. so when we get desperate we all sit in one room of the house together with a couple floor fans

  30. Aniket Patil permalink
    July 28, 2009

    The best way to keep heat away from your home is to use solar energy or a hybrid photovoltaic energy. The industries or companies which installs these provide us with solar storage D.C. batteries. They also use Light Emitting Diode [L.E.D.] lights and fans which run with help of such D.C. batteries. They are one time investment helping us keep cool [not at expense of electricity]. Thus providing self satisfaction about our contribution to the nature.

  31. Don permalink
    July 28, 2009

    Lots of good ideas and plans above. Another is to keep your furnace filter clean. It is also your air conditioner filter in most cases.

  32. Druz permalink
    July 28, 2009

    What’s a heat wave? I live in Florida…we call it weather!

    To cope with it, alternate working in the sun with relaxing in the shade. Work slowly and deliberately, not like a stock trader on the floor of the exchange. Drink water, but don’t overdo it. Take sips of tepid stuff; ice cold will cramp you. Avoid a heavy meal; the Mexicans down here eat a cold gazpacho served in taco shells at lunch. Works better than pizza or bologna sandwiches. Eat lots of bananas!

    After a day of this in the heat, indoors will seem like it’s air conditioned.

  33. Mike Luzzo permalink
    July 28, 2009

    If you are able to, open some windows and get a breeze going in house at night. Use at least 2 fans and even a oven fan to circulate air and get air interchange. Wear light clothing and sleep on sheets. Turn off the heat on water bed if you use one. Eat salads and lessen cooking. I nap on my apartment balcony. Keep doors and windows closed in daytime to retain cool air.

  34. sharon permalink
    July 28, 2009

    We have no air conditioning and live in California. There are no attics, rather attic space, where we open the ceiling hatch and put a high intensity fan on a tall vertical table right under the open hatch. With fan pointing straight up into the attic, at the highest speed, we blow the hot air out of the attic from about 12pm to dusk. In our area plumbing is in the attic where pipes work like old metal heating systems so, at periodic times we turn on the water, in about 3 minutes, flush out the hot water in those attic pipes so they don’t work like a metal heater. We keep the curtains cracked for light, and use a smaller house fan circulating air in inhabited rooms. We NEVER use the conventional oven, we use the microwave. And we don’t have a lot of TVs or appliances running, they produce heat.

  35. Gary Gebelhoff permalink
    July 28, 2009

    Living in Naples, Fl I do use the AC, but the use of Fans is what makes it feel comfortable. Also during the day keeping the blinds closed to stop the sun from beating in, but enough light comes in to keep the lights off. Other things that work, alot of cold water, light clothes and a cool shower keeps my electric bill about $80/month, that’s about $2.60/day or $.10/hour to be comfortable in Naples in July. That’s not too bad.

  36. Vasilis permalink
    July 28, 2009

    Pretty much everything has been covered. Ultimately it depends on the conditions of your home and the situation you are in, but don’t underestimate the easy solutions over more technical ones. Wearing less/lighter clothes, moving to cooler areas of the house, walking to local pools, and minimizing the help of technology all contribute to energy conservation.

    However if one must use electricity, then take the advice of the comments above.

  37. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    July 28, 2009

    I use the air conditioner but I have it set on a phermastat so it comes on and goes off automatically. But it is set high enough it only comes on the hottest days for about half an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. I turn the a/c off when I am away at work. My condo building is in a good spot with lots of trees to shade it and on the ground floor so it only gets direct sun a shortpheriod each day. Michael E. Bailey.

  38. Jen permalink
    July 28, 2009

    We live in the Midwest, and what we do to cope with extreme heat in our living space, is fairly simple. When we’re not home during the day we kick the temperature up to 86 F. The thermostat is down stairs and the bed rooms are upstairs, so in the summer when the AC is on in the evening we have the vents closed and blocked additionally with magnetic strips to force the cold air upstairs. We also make sure that all doors to the rooms are closed, we have bathrooms and closests that vent to the attic and we make sure that those doors stay closed as much as possible to make sure that the precious cold air doesn’t ecaspe to the attic.

    Something that helps year round, make sure that you have enough insulation in that attic. We increased our insulation, and our AC comes on 2 to 3 weeks later than our neighbors and our heat the same.

    Other neighbors have had reflective material placed on their windows in addition to the light blocking material for curtians. This has also contributed to the decrease of energy for those neighbors.

    We also try to run fans when we are in the room rather than all day when we are not around.

  39. charanjit kaur permalink
    July 29, 2009

    a wonderful thought i must agree, and these are small things that people in the ancient times did take care about
    1. cross ventilators to be left open for the natural air to pass through the rooms- possible in india
    2. during afternoons draw the curtains and wet them if possible this will cool the atmosphere or the room
    3. dont rush into tasks work slow to reduce the heat
    4. make cool drinks using ingredients like khus, mint, rose, or seeds used in indian falooda this will give a cool feeling inside
    5. avoid cold water as it simple makes you want to drink less, instead drink water stored in an earthen pot
    6 bath with water stored overnight – it would have cooled in temperature
    7. wear sunglasses- uv protected
    8. rub lime as a sunscreen or mix lime, a pinch of turmeric in unboiled milk – apply it every morning or night and wash it off after it has dried works as a moisturizer cum sunscreen lotion
    9. wear only cotton clothes helps your body breathe
    10. instead of hot water steam use ice to rub on your face as a facial – keeps you cool – you could use natural products like cucumber or coriander leaves paste as a face pack too

  40. Suzanne permalink
    July 30, 2009

    Keep all the windows open (no AC), drink lots of water and tea, unplug everything (except fridge/freezer – need that ice!), ride my bike everywhere (catch a nice breeze and no GHG-global warming, no heat-puffing engine, no tailpipe smog).

  41. JMB permalink
    July 30, 2009

    Keeping our home cool is a constant problem. We limit the sun in our upstairs rooms by drawing the shades. Keeping windows and doors closed helps.

    Our basement is cool which is next to our kitchen, so we sometimes open the basement door for a cooler temperature.

    We use the air conditioner and ceiling fans on a limited basis. Our air conditioner has a timer to limit the time it is used.

  42. Meredith WIlson permalink
    July 30, 2009

    To save a ton of money and energy I turn off my water heater in the summer. THe water is cool and refreshing so I don’t need hot water. If a need arises that I do need to turn it on, I do so just long enough to get the heater warmed up then I turn it off again. So far I am saving over $30 a month on my electric bill. And, of course I have done other things like changing the light bulbs, keep power to computer and other devices unplugged when not using.

  43. Jim Adcock permalink
    July 31, 2009

    We move the big red lever on our home’s circuit breaker to the “OFF” position, put on our bathing suits, and go to the beach.

  44. Karen permalink
    August 3, 2009

    I keep the windows open at night when it’s cool, and close them and the curtains to keep it cool and dark inside the apartment while i’m at work.

  45. Brian permalink
    August 5, 2009

    The idea of covering/closing vents in rooms not used has merits and increases overall system pressure, but only if the ductwork is well-sealed. Read EPA’s fact sheets on sealing ducts, which is a huge issue in older and cheaply built homes. Where outlet vents connect to ducts and ducts come in to floors/walls should be sealed to prevent conditioned air loss to unconditioned space. Accessible ducts in unconditioned spaces should be sealed with foil tape (not duct tape) or duct mastic. Otherwise, closing a vent can backpressure the air flow and cause it to leak out of “loose” duct connections even faster. EPA estimates duct losses could equal 40% of total air handler output in a bad house.

    I like your idea. Just make sure you have a well sealed system to maximize your benefit.

  46. prashant permalink
    August 5, 2009, college,schools etc should start an hour earlier so as to utilize the maximum amount of natural light this will considerably reduce energy consumption.
    2.Keep your curtains drawn to block out the sun.
    3.use CFLs as they save more than 65% on your lighting bills and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
    4.Wash only full loads in your clothes washer and dishwashers.
    5.if using an ac shut all the vents in the room.
    6.keep the refrigerator full as a full refrigerator uses less energy compared to a empty one.

  47. Brian permalink
    August 5, 2009

    Interesting suggestion. I’m curious as to your water supply. I have well water that is a constant 55 degrees F, and I think a shower in that might cause system shock and potential cardiac arrest. Many people won’t swim in a pool under 70 degrees. Going from warm air (say 80-90 degrees) to cold water may be a bit much for most people.

  48. pat thomson permalink
    August 6, 2009

    Four years ago I installed a ductless mini-split AC system in my ductless F.W. house. It is very efficient and affordable but the best part is that it gives me the option to just dehumidify, which is a huge cost and energy savings and all I need 95% of the time to be comfortable.

  49. Cheryl permalink
    August 31, 2009

    My attic door is in my garage. Does it make any difference, as far as heating/cooling the hose if it is left down?

  50. Marty permalink
    September 14, 2009

    Leave all the windows and doors open and turn the fans on, airflow is a great way to keep cool.

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