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  • Shading your house from the sun

    One of the coolest options of all is shade. Trees on the south side of the house are always a good investment, but if you're not planning to live in your home for a long period of time, you may not personally reap the shady ben- efits from planting a leafy friend. If your house isn't shaded by trees, install awnings over any windows that are exposed to direct sun during the day. Many awnings are removable and adjustable.

    Filtering the sunshine: Covering your windows

    Windows are a major source of unwanted heat during summer. Some easy ways to reduce the heat coming in through your windows include the following: Close the drapes during the hours of direct sunlight. Add reflective window tint to southern windows. Use bamboo window shades. By hanging old-fashioned bamboo shades on the outside of heat-producing windows, you create a bit of shade and a pocket of insulating air between the heat and the house. Bamboo shades are fairly inexpensive and are made to last in the elements for years. Look for them at garage sales. Shutters work well, too. Keep window coverings closed in unused rooms. If some bedrooms sit vacant all day, keep the curtains shut.

    Add reflective window curtain liners. Usually these liners have the reflective coating on only one side, so be sure to have the reflective side facing outward during the summer to keep the heat out of your house. Then during the winter, reverse them to reflect warmth back into the room.

    Making efficient use of air conditioning and fans

    An air conditioner can be the most expensive appliance in your home. Save a bit on the cost by implementing some of the following ideas: Turn up the thermostat a bit. If you normally have it set to 72 degrees during the summer, switch to 78 degrees. When it's 95 degrees in the shade outside, 78 degrees still feels comfortable and not too warm. Use fans to circulate air. Moving air feels several degrees cooler than still air. An overhead ceiling fan works well for cooling the whole room, but even a small box fan or oscillating fan keeps the air moving. At the end of the day, when the temperature outside cools down, turn off the air conditioning, open the windows, and place an outward-facing fan in a window to vent the hot air from the house. A vent fan in an upstairs window works best. Opening a downstairs window at the same time allows a full cross-breeze to develop throughout your home. The fan cools your house in a fraction of the time it takes to only open the windows and let the hot air sit in the house. Open the windows only if humidity is low, however. Otherwise, the air conditioner will have to work much harder to cool the humid air when you turn it back on.

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