6 Low-Cost Ways to Make Your Home Cooler—and Save on Your Electric Bill

·5 min read

Summer 2021 is expected to be hotter than average for most of the United States, and with the record-breaking heat waves in multiple western states last month, keeping cool is at the top of many people's priority lists this summer. Sure, it's great to keep the air conditioner on if you have one, but it can get expensive; running the AC for eight hours a day can cost over $200 per month on average, according to HVAC comparison site LearnMetrics.

And while some AC usage may well be inevitable, there are ways to feel comfy in your home through the hot summer months without spending so much on electricity bills. Here are some low-cost ways to keep your home cooler this summer.

Keep your curtains closed during the hottest hours.

It might be tempting to keep your curtains open to bring in sunlight, but you're also bringing in a lot of heat. Eric Nerhood, owner of Premier Property Buyers, says 30 percent of unwanted heat comes in through windows. Keep your curtains or blinds closed, especially during the hottest times of the day and opt for blackout curtains instead—this gives "natural insulation to a room to keep the cool air in" says Nerhood.

The best blackout curtains will keep your room cool, make it easier for you to fall asleep (and stay sleeping), and best of all, you don't have to pay top dollar to find ones that work well.

Check doors and windows to make sure there is no air escaping from them.

Look for cracks in windows and doors where air can escape and have those areas sealed. Fixing air leaks around your home can increase insulation, making sure cool air stays inside your home, and keeps hot air out.

"You stand to save almost $400 every year on heating and cooling if you locate the air leaks around your home and seal them," says David Bluhm, co-founder of Plunk, an app that helps homeowners with projects that will increase the value of their home.

Plus, you might be able to get some financial assistance to insulate your home. Bluhm says that government agencies strongly push for insulation, making a variety of local and federal subsidies like rebates, grants, loans, and tax credits available—like this weatherization assistance program that provides these services for low income families. Check out your state's weatherization agency to see what options are available to you.

Use fans to circulate air and stay cool.

If you don't have air conditioning (or want to give yours a breather) fans are a great low-cost alternative. Install a ceiling fan if you don't have one already, or get a couple of tower fans and place them around your home so your rooms have air circulating through them to stay cool.

There are lots of budget-friendly fans out there, but if you are able to splurge a bit, a whole house fan can be a good investment, especially if you don't have air conditioning. "They're energy efficient, they cool off your home quickly, and they barely make noise," says Harold Neufville, owner of personal finance blog Wholesome Wallet.

Neufville says he paid $1,400 for his whole house fan, which is still cheaper than installing central AC, which can range anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 average.

Switch your lighting to LED bulbs.

Wherever you can, switch out incandescent light bulbs in your home to energy-efficient LED bulbs. Incandescent bulbs release 90 percent of their energy as heat, while LEDs convert most of that energy directly into light, says Bluhm.

Not only do LEDs last a lot longer—25,000 hours compared to 1,200 hours with incandescent bulbs—they're more cost-effective too. "The cost to buy and run an LED bulb for three hours a day for one year alone would cost $2.81 compared to the larger $8.89 cost for an incandescent bulb," says Bluhm.

Install a smart thermostat.

A smart thermostat is an investment, with the device costing between $100 to over $200, but it's one that can save you money in the long run. A Nest study found that their customers saved 15 percent on cooling costs—an average of $131 to $145 per year. You could also be eligible for rebates from your electric company for having a smart thermostat in your home.

"The cost is relatively low when considering the savings over a 5-year period, not to mention the benefit to
the environment," says Catherine Alford, author of "Mom's Got Money" and co-founder of blog Millennial Homeowner.

A smart thermostat adapts to your home and needs, and saves energy and money. Alford says that when she recently went away on a weekend trip, her Nest turned itself to eco mode as it didn't detect her walking by it. "[It saved] us money while we were away without me even having to think about it," says Alford.

Clean and replace your air filters.

"An AC unit is only as good as its filters," says Jake Hill, CEO of personal finance publication Debt Hammer. Add clean and replace air filters to your summer home improvement list—old air filters that are full of dust are not only harmful to breathe in, but they're likely blocking airflow to the rest of your home. Replacing your air filters is easy, affordable, and the key to keeping the air in your home cool and healthy.