Simple steps for staying comfortable with less AC

Dear Jim: My ­family is trying to use less air-­conditioning this ­summer to save ­electricity. Do you have any good tips for us so that we are not terribly uncomfortable in our home?

– Ron H.

Spinning ceiling fan
You can lower your AC thermostat and stay comfortable with a ceiling paddle fan.

Dear Ron: First set your thermostat a few degrees higher. The ­savings should be from 1 to 3 percent for each degree you raise it. Just ­remember, there is a limit to how high you can raise your ­thermostat without becoming too ­uncomfortable – and instigating a rebellion by your family.

Other methods to minimize air-conditioning are to reduce the amount of heat that leaks into your home, reduce the amount of heat generated inside your house, control humidity levels, increase indoor air movement and use natural ventilation when possible.

Avoid sitting near a sun-exposed wall or window during sunny afternoons. Radiant heat comes right through the wall. Window and door awnings can be helpful in blocking direct sunlight.

We tend to think of caulking, weather stripping and insulation in the colder months. They also reduce heat gain during summer. Consider adding cellulose insulation and ensure all attic vents are not blocked.

A great deal of heat is generated inside a home from cooking, bathing and running electric appliances. When cooking or bathing, run the range hood or bath exhaust fan to remove the extra heat and moisture.

Use countertop-cooking appliances, such as a slow cooker outdoors to reduce indoor heat and humidity. Remember to unplug phone and computer chargers and other electrical items when they are not being used. They generate heat, which can add up quickly. Wash dishes and clothes at night; avoid washing in the afternoons during peak heat.

Change out old incandescent light bulbs for cooler ­running compact fluorescents. Nearly 90 percent of the energy used by old light bulbs generates heat, not light.

Running a ceiling paddle fan is very effective. Keep in mind the electric motor in the fan actually heats the room air, so turn it off when the room is unoccupied. Set the ­ceiling fan on medium to high speed and the rotation switch so it blows the air downward. During winter switch it back so the air blows upward.

On a breezy, not excessively hot day, try opening some windows. Widely open several windows on the downwind side of your home, and slightly open windows on the windward side. Due to the pressure difference, this causes the air to blow in the partially opened windows much faster, ­creating a breeze in that room.

A whole-house ventilation fan, often located in a hall ceiling, can draw huge amounts of air through your house. For times when the air is not excessively humid, run the fan at night. This can cool down the entire house and delay the time in the morning when the air conditioner has to come back on.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, Illinois Country Living, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit