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Aug. 15, 2022

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Keep your cool: HVAC maintenance, heat-savvy habits help you, your home weather summer

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Even in a heat wave, you can take some steps beyond the fan to cool off your home.
Even in a heat wave, you can take some steps beyond the fan to cool off your home. (Sergio Monti/Dreamstime) Photo Gallery

Odds are that right now your home is hotter than it has been in quite some time. And while the June heat dome across much of America won’t last forever, it won’t be the last series of broiling hot days to come — after all, summer is only just now beginning. With that in mind, here are some tips to keep your home cool this summer that don’t involve just adding on more air conditioning power.

1. Check your insulation

All the air conditioning in the world won’t help keep your home cool if the cold air doesn’t stay inside. Insulation creates a shield between your home interior and the outside weather, keeping the hot air out and the cold air inside where it belongs.

Many forms of insulation can last as long as 80 years or more. But some forms of insulation begin to degrade at around the 15-year mark. If your insulation is that age or older, consider hiring an insulation pro for an inspection to check the status and make recommendations. The sooner you replace faulty insulation, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits.

An insulation inspection usually costs a few hundred dollars. On average, you’ll spend about $1,500 and $2,600 to reinsulate an entire house, and less if you need only partial replacement.

If you suspect you’re losing air in multiple places around the house, or that you have widespread insulation trouble, consider an energy audit. A pro auditor costs about $400 but can be well worth it, as they’ll use tools such as infrared scanners to pinpoint problems precisely.

2. Maintain your HVAC unit

Your heating and air conditioning system can run nearly every day of the year, and it involves a lot of fuel and moving parts as air moves quickly through it. All this leads to wear and tear that can quickly degrade your system’s efficiency. Keep an eye on your system and make a note of any problems. Replace your filters in keeping with your manufacturer’s schedule — or more often, if you’re running hard. Your system works harder the more it needs to cool, and that can quickly lay more debris on a filter. Your filter is an early and vital line of defense to protecting your system. Also, keep an eye on your outdoor condensing unit. Trim away plants, bushes or vines that get too near it. Your condenser will work most efficiently if it has a couple of feet of clear space on all sides.

If you haven’t done so already, or if you suspect a problem, call a pro to help. An HVAC inspection and tune-up usually costs about $100, which will more than pay for itself in energy bills and comfort if you have any issues.

3. Follow cool habits

How you manage your home makes as much of a difference in temperature as the outside heat and your HVAC system. Here are a few things that will lower the thermometer:

  • Plant trees to block sunlight on your house’s east and west sides.
  • Keep windows covered with heavy, light-blocking shades.
  • Don’t run heat-producing appliances during the day. Consider using the grill or making meals that don’t require the oven to avoid introducing extra heat into the home.
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