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Renovation & Design

Too darn hot? Keep cool and save

Postmedia/Towering trees around this curved deck and pergola offer shade from the summer sun.

As the mercury soars, your air conditioner will be working overtime to keep the house comfortably cool. Dave Walton of Direct Energy offers these helpful tips to save money on your summer energy costs:

1. Keep the outdoor air conditioner clear of toys, dirt and grass clippings and carefully clean it with a garden hose. Flowers and shrubs should be a minimum two feet from the unit.

2. Consider installing ceiling fans -- which are more energy efficient than turning on the air conditioner -- to maximize air circulation and move the fresh air throughout the home. Ceiling fan blades should move the air downward in the summer and upwards in the winter.

3. If your air conditioning unit is more than 11 years old, it's important to have it regularly serviced by a professional technician. Scheduling regular maintenance will help ensure your A/C system is working properly so you don't run into any problems during a summer heat wave.

4. Keep blinds, carpets and furniture away from interior vents, so your cooling system can operate efficiently and provide even air distribution. Close vents in less used rooms so you are not spending money cooling those spaces. Also, close the vents in the basement so the cool air travels to the higher levels of your home.

5. Try to use major appliances such as washers, dryers and dishwashers during off-peak hours (check with your electricity provider for this information). Use your microwave or barbecue for cooking and reheating if possible.

6. Unplug vampire electronics; they still suck power when they're not in use. Ideally, unplug anything you're not using, such as cellphone chargers, and turn off power bars.

7. Turn off all unnecessary lights because they generate heat. This reduces the amount of hot air your A/C needs to cool. Use energy-saving light bulbs, which can last up to 10 times longer than a normal bulb and use up to 75-per-cent less energy. A single 20-to- 25-watt energy-saving bulb provides as much light as a 100-watt ordinary bulb. Finally, install motion sensors or timers for external lights.

8. Close doors and windows so the cool air stays indoors. Keeping drapes and blinds closed on sunny days can also save on electricity costs. Shading windows with awnings, trees and shrubs will also help. If planting shade trees, they're best planted on the south and west sides of a home.

-- Postmedia News

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