Keeping the Farmhouse Cool
Published June 4, 2021
Summer is a busy, important time of year for rural households. What is comfortable varies from person to person so controlling the temperature inside of your home is important. In this video we’re going to cover tips and strategies to keep your home cool and comfortable, while managing your energy use and bills.
Manage your windows and window treatments. Take advantage of cool evenings and mornings. Open up the windows to let the cool air inside. During the day, close window treatments to keep the hot sun out and depending on the temperature, close the windows during the day to keep the hot air out.
Additionally, if you have shade trees near your home, that helps a lot to keep your home cool. Shade trees on the southside are especially helpful. The Department of Energy states that shade trees can reduce the surrounding temperature by as much as six degrees. The wind rows or grove you may have planted around the farmstead, aren’t just blocking the wind. They are also reducing the heat around your yard.
There will be days when you’ll need more relief from the heat than just a breeze. Fans are the first option to consider. They use just a fraction of the electricity that an air conditioner would use. A blowing fan can make you feel up to 4 degrees cooler due to the windchill effect. If you have ceiling fans, have them set so they turn counterclockwise in the summertime. That will pull the hot air away. In the winter, you can change the direction and run them slowly to push warm air down.
The next thing to consider is using an air conditioner – either window units or central air. Both options will use a fair amount of electricity. Households that use air conditioners tend to have the highest household electricity bills during the summer months.
The Department of Energy recommends waiting until the temperature inside reaches 78 degrees before turning on the air conditioner. We all have different tolerances and preferences for temperatures, so it’s a balancing act. Humidity plays a big role in comfort so many of us need to have the AC on before it reaches 78 degrees.
Controlling your thermostat is key to managing how often your air conditioning is on. Many families prioritize using air conditioning overnight in order to sleep well so set the thermostat lower in the evening and have a higher temperature setting during the daytime. Using a programmable thermostat is a great way to manage these changes.
If you have central air conditioning, find out if your utility offers a money-saving AC cycling program. Some utilities will provide a percentage off per month, others will give a monthly flat bill discount, and others will provide a seasonal discount. However it is offered, it’s an easy way to save money on your summer electric bills and it helps the whole system stay efficient. Check with your utility or cooperative on the program specifics.
There is another cooling technology that is gaining popularity across the state. It is called an air source heat pump. It can both heat and cool your home. Air Source Heat Pumps use electricity and are very efficient. They work as an air conditioner to cool your home in the summer and work in reverse in the winter to heat your home, though back up heating systems are required for very cold temperatures. There are options that use a duct system and ductless systems. Homes that heat with electricity or propane may be great candidates for these systems.
If you are looking to add or replace your cooling systems, look for efficient models. Models with the Energy Star rating are a great place to start. If you have a window unit, see how old it is and compare it to newer models. If it is quite old and inefficient, you could save money on energy costs by replacing it. Also, check to see if your utility offers rebates. Rebates lower the initial cost of high-efficiency equipment, which costs less to operate in the long run. If you are eligible for energy assistance, a program based on household size and income, inquire about programs to help with your home’s cooling as well as heating.
This video was developed through a partnership between Minnesota Farmers Union, the Clean Energy Resource Teams, and the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota to help rural and farm families stay comfortable and keep energy bills manageable. Look for additional segments on CUB’s YouTube page.