7 ways to avoid turning up the AC

When we first moved to the Californian desert, our socks were blown off at the sight of our first summer electricity bills.  We immediately raised our base AC temperature to what was very uncomfortable at first.  Eventually we acclimated to the higher house temperature and to the desert altogether.  As of now, we keep out thermostat at 80, but I will let it creep higher in the summer, usually in the 80-85 range.  We have a real life visual of energy every day living here next to the wind farm.  Palm Springs is known for its thousands of windmills, strewn across the desert and up the hills.  The natural wind energy here is very apparent most days!

After those first summer electricity bills, we took steps to lower our energy bill like:

  •  unplugging EVERYTHING from the walls when not in use
  •  washing clothing in cool water
  • running the pool pump and sprinklers at night
  • switching to LED and solar-powered lights
  • heating our pool with solar panels

All of these easy tasks lowered our monthly consumption considerably.  But, after living in the desert for 8 years, our battle is still the air conditioner.  It gets up to 120 temps in the summer and I can already hear you saying, “but, Sarah, it’s a dry heat.”  *eye roll*  Yes, I am super grateful to not have to contend with the stifling humidity I grew up with in Virginia, but hot is hot and whether dry or wet, you want to crank up that AC.  Our real problem is the amount of hot months.  Spring, summer and fall all have really hot months, so our AC comes on way before and stays on way longer than most of the rest.  During the spring and early fall, I like to fight back by cooling the house and myself with these strategies:

how to avoid turning up your AC

heat-blocking blackout curtains

One of the best things we ever did was rip down the ugly, plastic vertical blinds and throw them away.  In their place we put a super simple rod up and heat-blocking blackout curtains.  These actually reflect the heat back out and you can feel the difference in room temperatures right away.  Plus, who doesn’t love a dark, cool room when you want to sleep in?  (that last one is for people without kids)

seal windows and doors

Don’t let your cool air escape!  Trap it well by keeping all windows and doors sealed tightly when closed.  A professional can easily test your windows and doors by using a thermometer.  I’ve also heard there is a smoke test you can DIY, but I can’t vouch for it.  Google it.

take off your socks

Your body loses heat the most through your feet and your head.  Take off your shoes, socks and hats at home for some instant cooling relief.  Also consider wearing lighter, breathable fabrics when indoors… or just LESS clothing.

fans and portable ACs

Install high-quality ceiling fans in all bedrooms and living rooms.  Here is a great time to invest – it will save you money in the long run.  Electric fans and portable ACs are a great option for hot bedrooms (because it is impossible to sleep when you’re boiling). There are also battery powered fans, just make sure to use rechargeable batteries.

jump in the pool

Somewhere around late July, the suffocating dry heat of the desert really starts to get to me.  Wanting to power through without raising my AC for both environmental and money saving reasons, I rely on my pool and shower to cool off.  Super hot? Dive in the pool, run around in the sprinklers like you’re 9 again or just take a quick 2-3 minute shower with cool-cold water.

avoid using the oven

I avoid using the oven during the spring/summer season.  Baking is totally out for me.  What I’ve found is all I really need in my kitchen is the stovetop for just about everything I eat.  Better yet, stock up on delicious no-bake recipes and also enjoy fresh, raw summer produce.  The oven can heat up a kitchen pretty fast, especially if it is a closed kitchen or you are living in an apartment.

plant trees

Planting tall trees around the house will help block the sun’s heat from coming into your windows.  This is a long-term solution for those who plan to live in their current home for many years.  If you’re currently house shopping, keep this tip in mind – look for windows that are partially shaded from the sun during peak hours.  Heat also builds up through the roof, so super tall trees that create shade on the roof are excellent!

Get inspired to save energy! Conserving energy and reducing your impact on the environment is not complicated.  It is simply these tips that you see her and many more.  Commit to making your house a green one by upgrading appliances and lights to be energy efficient, use those appliances during off hours, unplug what you’re not using… just be thoughtful in your day to day tasks and you will succeed.  Small changes at home means big changes for California!  One of the best tips I can give you is to educate your kids young so their generation can do 100x better than we did.

Learn more about energy consumption, climate change and what you can do at Energy Upgrade California®.  This statewide initiative is committed to helping Californians take action to save energy, conserve and preserve natural resources, reduce demand on the energy grid, and make informed choices about their energy use at home and at work.

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