Do you want to be cool or warm?

As things warm up or cool down we struggle to keep our homes at the temperature we want without paying a big bill. Here are some tips to help keep your home a pleasant place without breaking the budget.

Keeping things clean

Clogged air filters keep the air from coming through and make the motor run harder to push the air through. Some filters need to be changed every 30 days, others 90, and some even last a year.

Do you have an air conditioner? Make sure the coils and vents are clear. They can get filled up with dirt, grass clippings, bugs, nests, and more.  The same idea works for a swamp cooler. When was the last time you vacuumed around your furnace? Do you have boxes piled up against it?

Use the natural air

To keep things cool use your windows! Open them at night once the air outside is cooler than inside, and close them in the morning once the sun starts heating things up. Maximize the transfer of that cooler air inside by putting a box fan in the window, pointed into the house. It will draw the cooler air inside. Be sure to have windows open on opposite sides of the house and the doors in the rooms between them so the cool air comes all the way through.

Hot air rises, if you have a basement, you have noticed it’s cooler downstairs. You can use a fan to pull the cooler air upstairs. The opposite is true for winter, close doors to the upstairs so the heat stays downstairs. Reverse any ceiling fans so they blow the hot air down instead of pulling it up.

Keep the air moving in the house. Fans placed strategically to keep the air moving about will keep the air feeling cooler. Hang a damp towel in front of the fan and as it blows through the towel it will cool the air and you. You can also buy evaporative coolers. These are fans with a basin where you put water and even ice. They have a pump that circulates the water over a pad that the fan blows through cooling and moisturizing the air. These come in small, desktop sizes and larger ones that will cool your whole house.

Heating things up

Your house is just like your car. The more windows the sun hits, the warmer it gets inside. Just like the car, in the summer you want to block the windows, so close the blinds and draperies once the sun is up (make sure the windows are closed). In the winter, open the blinds and draperies to let the sun heat the inside and close them when the sun goes down.

To help keep things cool, don’t leave lots of lights on, use LED lightbulbs, they’re cooler. Avoid baking during the day. If you want to bake, do it in the evening when you can open the windows and send the heat outside. Even cooking on the stovetop increases the heat in the house. Summer is for BBQing outside, enjoying sandwiches, and the microwave. Instant pots and slow cookers give off less heat, but they have a bonus, they can be plugged in and used outside as well! In winter use the oven and start baking in the morning to help shake that overnight chill. When you’re done baking, leave the oven door open so the heat escapes into the house.

Keep the doors to outside closed as much as possible. It takes approximately 5-15 seconds for the inside temperature to change ½ to 1 degree to match the outside temperature. That means that for every 15 seconds you stand at the door talking to someone your house is changing as much as one degree! Invite your friends in or go outside to chat with them!

Drafty windows are a problem in summer or winter. Use some weatherstripping to seal the edges. Make sure that your doors have good weatherstripping and air draft guards. If it’s an outside door and you can add a screen door it is surprising how much it helps.

In the winter double pane windows help keep the cold out. If you don’t have double pane windows you can put clear plastic over it so you can still see out and enjoy the sunshine. If you don’t care if you can see out, recycle that bubble wrap and air-filled bags by putting them in the space between the window and your plastic, this will create a greater barrier to the cold air.

Sleeping comfortably

If it’s hot give these tips a try:

  • You may have heard about cooling blankets. They can be pricey or cheap. I bought one on a lightning deal off Amazon for just under $30. It feels nice and cool at first, which is usually all it takes to get to sleep. After a bit, I have to move it so the part my body has warmed up isn’t on me and then it feels cool again.
  • You can also try putting your top sheet in the freezer just before you go to bed. If it’s really hot you may want to lay on it instead of under it, but either way it will help cool you off. Peppermint is also cooling, use a peppermint lotion to help you chill out.
  • Put a fan at the base of your bed to blow on you, one that oscillates seems to work best.
  • Use a spray bottle to lightly (you don’t want it wet, just chilled) spray your sheets and yourself.

In the winter try these:

  • Wear socks to bed, they will help keep you warm. If you don’t like sleeping with socks (or just to make it warmer) you can put an extra blanket at the foot of your bed.
  • You can get electric blankets or mattress pads to keep your bed warm. I like to turn mine on before I go to bed so I’m getting into a warm bed. They can be a little pricy so if you want a cheaper option you can heat rice bags and cuddle up to them or use them to warm your bed before you get in. Here’s a super easy way to make them – use long, tube-style socks that one has worn out so you’re stuck with the leftover, fill it with rice, and tie a knot in the top. You can add some pleasant-smelling herbs like lavender to help you sleep. Just heat for a minute or so in the microwave and they’ll stay warm for quite a while.
  • For a special treat you can put a blanket in the dryer and heat it up before using. On winter days when it was below zero, we got to put our coats in the dryer to heat them just before going out to wait for the bus.

Keeping your body at the right temperature

Eat and drink cold foods, they will help cool your body. The opposite works for keeping your body warm.

Use a damp towel on the back of your neck, to quickly cool you down. You can also just use a splash of water. If you’re cold, use a heating pad or heated rice bag.

Make sure you stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water regardless of the season. Adding mint to your drink can cool you down.

Limit physical activity during the hottest parts of the day. Get up early to exercise. This works well when it’s cold because it helps heat your body. If you sit at a desk a lot, taking a 5-minute break to walk up and down stairs or do some jumping jacks or other exercises will get the blood moving and warm you up, it’s also good for your health.

When it’s hot wear loose, flowing clothing, it allows air to pass along the skin. It also helps the sweat evaporate, which increases cooling. Lighter-colored clothes don’t absorb the sunlight, making them cooler. When it’s cold you want to layer your clothes, each layer helps trap body heat. A t-shirt under a sweatshirt makes a big difference. Blankets should be available where people sit. As you move about your body warms up, if you’re sitting at a desk all day, put on a blanket instead of turning up the heat.

A small fan or space heater by your desk or where you sit and watch TV can make a big difference in whether or not you need to adjust the temperature in the whole house. Close doors to rooms that aren’t being used. Close the doors to bedrooms that are only used at night for the day, then open them so they get warmer or cooler for bedtime. The smaller the space you are trying to heat or cool, the less effort it takes.

Many of these are very small and inexpensive changes, but they can make a big difference. Some are free, such as drinking a big glass of ice water to cool down or cuddling up with a loved one to share body heat in the winter. With a little bit of effort, you can be comfortable even when the temperature outside isn’t.