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How to keep cool while staying green this summer

Nearly 90 percent of American households use air conditioning during the hot summer months. That’s understandable, but the planet pays a price. All of those air conditioners release 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — and that, of course, contributes to climate change. It can also overload the power grid when everyone is blasting their ACs full power.

You’re not going to toss your air conditioner (and anyway, that burdens landfills and can leak hydrofluorocarbons). But there are ways you can reduce your reliance on window units or central air and save money — without significantly increasing your discomfort. Here are a few tips.

Dress for the weather. Sure, you spend your downtime in shorts and flip flops. But how do you dress for work? Is your company old school when it comes to dress code? If the requirements are dress casual or even more formal, you might not be dressed for the weather. Tell your boss that the business could save on energy costs with a more relaxed summer dress code. If you’re the boss, comfortable attire could increase morale and boost productivity while cutting costs. Win win.

Don’t chill out. We’ve all seen (or been) restaurant diners bringing sweaters into the establishment during an August heat wave. Many homes and commercial spaces air condition well beyond the comfort needs of visitors and occupants. Try dropping your home or business thermostat setting a notch or two. Back off if you feel uncomfortable or others complain, but you just might save money and increase comfort with this easy step.

Use the heat cycle. It’s rarely uniformly warm on even the hottest summer days. It’s generally cooler early in the day and after the sun goes down. Can you use that time better? Dial up the AC and step out to do your gardening, walk the dog, cut the grass or run errands during these relatively cool dayparts.   

Hug a tree. Or at least get on a first name basis with a few. Trees strategically placed around your property can keep the radiant sun out of your house and cool your yard. Take a few ticks off of your AC setting at home and bring the kids to the park. Or sit in the shade with a book or a laptop to get some work done. Trees rock during the sweltering summer months.

‘Summerize’ your home. Make sure you have screens in place, then open windows and use or install ceiling fans to stir up whatever breezes can be found. Also, it might sound counterintuitive, but better insulating your home blocks the summer heat as well as it keeps the icy air out in the winter. Add plantings or window shades outside to reduce the sun’s impact.  All of these steps can help reduce the time you need your air conditioner or at least allow you to use it more efficiently.

Stay temp aware. Is the AC running 24/7 simply because it’s summer and probably hot out? Find out if that’s true. Step outside or get a current temp reading on your phone. If you can adjust the AC setting or even turn it off altogether and open the windows you’ll save money while doing the planet a solid.  

Original Feature by David Searls, Staff Writer

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