Summer Comfort

Summer Comfort

A fan club for fans

Let’s hear it for fans! Here are some good reasons from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers and Michael Bluejay, energy consultant, to use fans to cool down this summer. Some tips for using them most effectively include:

Fans use a fraction of the electricity consumed by window or central air conditioners. Compare 100 watts for a floor fan or up to 95 watts for a ceiling fan to up to 1,440 watts for a window air conditioner and 3,500 for a 2.5-ton central unit.

 Fans used consistently and effectively can reduce the need for air conditioning as much as 30 percent.

 Fans can make you feel 3 to 8 degrees cooler by blowing hot air away from your body and cooling you down. That means you can raise the temperature setting for your air conditioner by several degrees and still feel comfortable.

 To feel the breeze created by a fan, make sure the blades are pushing air down. Look for a switch on the side of the fan usually between the light and the blades. Counterclockwise usually blows air down and clockwise usually pulls air up.

 Fans are cheap! For about $40, you can buy a ceiling fan, less for a floor model.

Install a whole-house or attic fan. When temperatures drop in the evening, open up windows and switch on the fan to pull cooling air through the house. Of course, when humidity rises, you may not want to pull that moisture-laden air inside.

Reducing summer cooling costs can start in the kitchen
There are many ways to save energy in the kitchen that require little extra effort. Most of these measures will also keep your kitchen cooler, and reduce the amount of moisture released into your home. These both reduce summer cooling costs.

  • Use cold water for cooking, even if you'll heat the water on the stove. Hot water that has been sitting in your water heater isn't considered wholesome for cooking by health experts.
  • Use lids on pots and pans when possible to speed cooking.
  • Use pressure cookers for foods that require long cooking times. This will usually reduce the cooking time by three-quarters.
  • Avoid using your full-size oven. Use a microwave for small meals or leftovers. If you have a gas range, check that the flame is mostly blue, with yellow only at the tips. Have a serviceman adjust them if needed. A properly adjusted flame is cleaner and more efficient.
  • Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator for a day or two before cooking. This is like putting a free block of ice in your refrigerator.
  • Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer using an accurate thermometer. Adjust your refrigerator so it is no colder than 38-40 degrees. Adjust your freezer to 0-5 degrees.
  • If your refrigerator has an Energy-Saver switch, turn it to "off" or "save energy." This controls small electric heaters that warm the outside of the refrigerator to prevent condensation from forming around the door in humid climates. Unless you notice wetness or frost around the door, you don't need to use the feature.
  • Run your dishwasher only when it's full. Use the energy saving cycle to save electricity and hot water.
  • Finally, if your shopping for a new refrigerator or dishwasher, look for models that have an Energy Star label. These are the most efficient appliances made.

Source: John Krigger, Saturn Resource Management

Summer comfort: The human factor

You can help reduce your cooling bills if you understand how humans stay cool. Your body prefers to remain at a constant temperature of about 98 degrees, and it releases heat in three ways to do this.

The first way your body cools itself is by giving up heat to the air rising off your skin. This convection takes place when your body warms the surrounding air, causing the air to rise and allowing cooler air to move against your skin.

The second type of heat loss takes place when your warm skin looses heat to surrounding cooler objects such as walls and furniture. If these objects are relatively cool, this process of radiation allows your body to lose a lot of unwanted heat. If the objects are warm they will accept less of your heat.

The third type of heat loss is the evaporation that occurs when you sweat or douse yourself with water. If you create more body heat than you can lose through convection and radiation, you begin to sweat and evaporation takes place. If you then stand in front of a fan, your skin will cool rapidly. This is because water carries heat away as it evaporates from your skin.

Room fans and ceiling fans circulate air within an occupied room to increase convection and evaporation from your skin. These circulating fans can help you avoid the use of expensive air conditioning when the weather is only moderately hot. They also work well when used in conjunction with air conditioning by allowing you to set your cooling thermostat higher. Be sure to leave your windows closed when you run your air conditioner.

You can help heat radiate from your skin by installing energy conservation measures that keep your home's walls, ceiling, and floor cooler. Plant trees around your home, install awnings or window shades, install attic insulation, or apply a reflective coating on your roof to stop heat before it enters your home.