MANHATTAN, K-State -- Shade trees that shield the home from the summer sun can typically yield a savings on utility bills, said Bruce Snead, a Kansas State University Research and Extension residential energy specialist.
Newer homes and neighborhoods may not have trees that have reached maturity that will allow them to provide relief from the summer heat and sun, but homeowners can still take steps to reduce summer cooling costs, said Snead, who offered these tips:
* Clean or replace the filter in a heating and cooling system every three months.
* Check periodically to see that the condensate drain, which removes condensation water drawn from the air during the cooling process, has not become clogged by accumulated rust or other debris. A clog may cause water to back up and damage nearby flooring or a ceiling of a lower level.
* Install a programmable thermostat that allows heating and cooling systems to adjust the inside temperature to match a homeowner´s needs and lifestyle. If the family is away during the day, the home need not be cooled to the same level during that time, but the thermostat can be set to begin cooling before the family arrives home. Check with the electric utility to see if they offer rebates on thermostats.
* Keep the home closed up to reduce solar gain during intense heat; close shades and blinds during the hottest part.
* Install ceiling fans, which, although not cooling units, do circulate the air and minimize stuffiness. To conserve more energy, turn off the fan when the room is not occupied.
* Supplement hard-to-cool spots with a box fan or by installing a window air conditioner. Read the manufacturer´s instructions and place the unit out of direct sunlight and preferably on the north or east side of the home.
* Look for and seal air leaks around windows, doors, ducts or construction (of the home) with appropriate materials, such as caulk, weatherstripping, aluminum foil tape or fiberglass tape with mastic for ducts, or other durable products. Follow the manufacturer´s recommendations for safety and personal protection when installing or using these materials in and around the home.
* Evaluate attic ventilation, and add soffit, ridge or gable end vents.
* Check insulation levels. Add more if needed, according to U.S.
Department of Energy region and climate recommendations. R-value recommendations can be found at http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs%2bwalls/insulation/ins_16.html.
"Monitor utility bills to check for an unexpected change that may reflect a loss of efficiency in a cooling system," Snead said.
More information on choosing and maintaining energy efficient heating and cooling systems is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on the Extension engineering Web