Home & Garden

Beat the heat: Keep cool without air conditioning

KENNEWICK -- Sweltering.

It's an apt word to describe our Mid-Columbia weather this week -- and if you believe the weather reports, the coming weeks too.

No matter how tough you are, it's triple-digit temperatures like this that send most of us scurrying for the nearest air-conditioned space, whether it's our cars, home, the mall, even the office.

Yet not everyone has access to cool air-conditioned air, or can afford it. Because just as a January cold snap spikes your February heating bill, this summer's hot spell is sure to send power bills soaring.

But there are some ways to alleviate the heat's effect on you, your home and your bank account too.

One inexpensive way is to go fluorescent. Energy-efficient fluorescent lights not only burn longer than incandescent bulbs, but they also burn cooler.

Home Depot experts say 75 percent of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs becomes wasted heat, not light.

Free and effortless

Train family members to avoid using outside doors that are in full sun. Instead have everyone enter and exit through a door that's shaded.

"You'd be surprised how much cooler the house stays when you're not letting in a burst of hot air every time the door opens," said Gail Everett, environmental education coordinator for the city of Richland.

"When it's this hot, you want to do every little thing you can to keep your house as cool as possible whether you have air conditioning or not," she said.

Keep the sun out. Pull your drapes, close your blinds especially those on west facing windows.

"And while it may seem obvious, don't run your clothes dryer when it's hot out. Also avoid washing clothes in hot water, running the dishwasher, cooking and showering during the heat of the day," she said.

All those activities put moisture and radiant heat into the house, making it warm and muggy.

"Avoid using the oven. Even after you turn it off, the heat lingers for quite a while," Everett said.

Microwaves, toaster ovens, cooking on top of the stove and outdoor grills are all cooler options.

If you have air conditioning, walk through the house and be sure beds, sofas and dressers are not sitting on the registers. Double-check, too, that any fireplace or wood stove dampers are closed, she said.

At night when temperatures drop, open doors and windows and let the house cool down naturally.

In the morning, close everything back up to keep the cool air in, Everett said.

Move the air

Fans help by circulating the air, creating air currents that remove the moisture (perspiration) from your skin creating the sensation of coolness, she said.

Opt for portable fans that can be easily moved from room to room and store easily in the fall.

Or, for a permanent, decorative touch, add a ceiling fan. Many include a light as well as a reversible motor making them multipurpose.

Reversible motors are an important option, according to information from the Comfort Institute, an international indoor comfort research, training and consumer protection organization based in Bellingham.

Running the tilted blades with the leading edge higher in the summer creates a cooling upward breeze. And running them in the opposite direction in the winter helps to push warm air at the ceiling back down.

Also, check the owners' manual of your heat pump or furnace. Some have a fresh air intake and so you may be able to set it to recirculate the already cooled air inside the house instead of pulling in hot outside air, which then will need to be cooled.

Don't overlook the power of filters. While walking around her house checking the vents, Everett noticed that the house didn't seem to be as cool as it should have been.

"So I checked the furnace filter and it was filthy," she said. "We have one of those washble filters so I cleaned it up, put it back in and -- wow -- was I surprised at the difference."

* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com. See more of the Herald's Home & Garden stories at www.tricityhomeandgarden.com.