This post is brought to you in partnership with Shafer Services Plus and may contain affiliate links
Here in South Texas, figuring out how to keep your house cool in summer is a priority (especially with four kiddos and a pup!). I have the added challenge of living in a house that’s over a century old, although the previous owners thankfully updated it with an HVAC system. I’ve lived in a similarly old house with only window units before and central AC makes such a difference!
I first moved to San Antonio 25 years ago as a young girl who’d spent her elementary years in England, where a heatwave there was 80 degrees. I still have the distinct memory of walking out of the sliding doors at the San Antonio airport and feel the sudden blast of hot air on my face (we had conveniently moved in the month of August, the hottest month of the year here). It felt like someone had just opened an oven door in front, and I ran immediately back inside. I soon learned how to walk in the shade on the sizzling summer sidewalks and to make sure I was applying plenty of sunscreen and drinking plenty of water.
Triple digits can start as early as May and return again and again for months. That kind of heat is no joke. Fortunately as a kid things like keeping the house cool in summer or energy bills low were not at the top of my priority list, but enter homeownership (or even home renting) as an adult and voila, your priorities change real fast! And life as a divorced, self-employed, home-owning mama really hones the priority of making things work within a budget.
Here’s how to keep your house cool in summer and beat the heat on a budget
1. Make sure your ceiling fans are spinning the right way
You’ve probably heard that you should switch the direction your ceiling fans turn in the summer versus winter. In the winter, you want them spinning clockwise (and on low) to help keep the heat from your furnace circulating. In the summer, you want to set your ceiling fans to counterclockwise so that they push air down and create that oh-so-welcome breeze on hot summer days. Adjusting the direction of your ceiling fans in the summer won’t replace the need for air conditioning, but it can certainly help keep the rooms in your home stay cooler and give your unit a bit of a break in hot weather months.
Never changed the direction of your ceiling fans? Just look for the switch on the side of the fan (after you go cross-eyed trying to determine which direction your fan is spinning), and push it the opposite way as needed. Have trouble remembering which way your fan should spin in the summer? Think of “cold-cold” for counterclockwise like I do—gotta love a helpful mnemonic device!
2. Keep your blinds closed to keep out direct sunlight
This might seem inconsequential, but keeping your blinds shut (or getting some if you don’t have them!) can help cut down on the amount of heat coming in through your windows. It can also serve as a buffer for keeping cool air in.
3. Blackout curtains
If you’re already good at keeping the blinds shut, consider adding another barrier with some blackout curtains. Yes, new window treatments require a little extra spending, but blackout curtains are designed to reflect the bulk of UV rays that hit them, and can reduce unwanted solar heat from entering your home. Blackout curtains also double in the winter for keeping warm air from escaping your home, and they can even help you sleep better by blocking out that early morning sun. You can get these best-selling blackout curtains on Amazon starting at a pretty reasonable price.
4. Use your oven as little as possible!
Okay, this one might sound a little weird (how are we supposed to feed our kids, Amy?), but bear with me. While, yes, most of the heat from your oven is contained within your oven when you’re cooking (duh), it also warms up the room around you tremendously—especially when you open the oven door after it’s a roaring 400° inside.
You’re better off cooking as much as possible on the stovetop, or using appliances like your pressure or slow cooker. And if you’re a grill master, then cooking up some BBQ keeps the heat outside of your home altogether!
5. Avoid incandescent lights
According to Energy Star, “Incandescent bulbs produce light using electricity to heat a metal filament until it becomes ‘white’ hot or is said to incandesce. As a result, incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy as heat.” LED light bulbs are a good alternative to incandescent light bulbs and emit far less heat. This tip may not make a giant difference, but every little helps when you’re trying to keep your house cool in summer (and LED light bulbs will definitely help your budget in the long run).
6. Replace your air filter regularly
I have to admit that I’m guilty of not doing this as often as I should (in my defense, our vent’s location is so hard to close). A dirty air filter can restrict the air flow and trap cold air in your air conditioner, causing additional problems like ice forming on the coils and freezing your system which can cause it to shutdown. Basically you’re not going to get the full effect of your AC system, and it’s going to work harder trying to keep your house cool in summer, too.
7. Regular HVAC maintenance
Okay, y’all this is one I had to learn the hard way (like so many lessons in life). On Memorial Day weekend last year, my air conditioner decided to go out, not only that but it started dripping water through my ceiling. This is a nightmare situation at best, and even worse on a long holiday weekend. I was worried that I’d have pay out the wazoo to have someone come out to look at it and was terrified that fixing it was going to be a major expense.
Fortunately the air conditioning gods favored me that day, and I found a friend who recommended a technician who was able to make it out in just a couple hours. And even better, it was a relatively simple fix. Luckily my AC had also auto kicked off and the ceiling stopped dripping soon after, but the technician did kindly ask if I was getting my unit serviced regularly. What? That’s a thing? Yes, yes it is.
If you’ve been making the mistake I was—stop immediately. Having your HVAC checked at least twice a year (once in the fall and once in the spring) can make a crucial difference in not only the longevity and functionality of your system, but also your electric bill. And choosing a company you can trust is key in making sure you can keep your house cool in summer.
Some Love on the Local-Owned Business, Shafer Services Plus
I recently received an AC tuneup and air quality assessment from Shafer Services Plus and loved it. Scheduling the service super easy, the staff was super friendly, and I received a heads up call to let me know when my technician would arrive. He arrived on time, and I even got a little intro text letting me know who he was and his experience in the HVAC industry (howdy Hayden!).
After listening to any concerns I had, he got straight down to business giving my system a thorough check. I even got the thumbs up that there was no evidence of organic growth in my ducts, but there was some slight dust buildup (which is likely from those times when I haven’t changed my filter regularly). I was very proud of myself for having a clean filter in place, but my technician would have gladly switched it out as part of the service.
He gave me an overview of air purification options which could help keep my home free of bacteria, allergens, and harmful pollutants (nobody wants any of that in their home, amirite?). He also gave me information detailing Shafer Service’s Pro Plus Advantage Program, which provides 2 complete HVAC system checks a year, 1 whole house plumbing check, priority scheduling, 10% discount on all repairs, plus much more for—all for just $18 dollars per month.
To make that sweet budget-friendly plan even better, they offer a Pro Plus Payback, which will credit 50% of your total monthly advantage plan payments back to you for the purchase of a new HVAC in the event that you need one. I love when companies provide offers like this, it really makes me happy to see them taking such good care of their people (and me!). They also offer great deals on one-off AC services if you’re not quite ready to commit, and you can find Shafer’s current offers on their website.
Okay, enough gushing about my new favorite local business (that’s also been serving the San Antonio community for over 130 years!). Let’s get back to more budget-friendly ways to keep cool at home in summer, shall we?
More effective ways to keep your body temperature cool at home in summer
8. Stay hydrated
This might seem like a no-brainer, but keeping your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water is one of the best budget-friendly ways to keep cool, too. Staying hydrated helps you maintain a consistent body temperature. Your body sweats when it gets hot, pulling on those water resources (which is a good and necessary thing—especially coupled with those heavenly ceiling fans), but your body temperature will rise if you don’t rehydrate. So grab yourself a glass of cool water multiple times throughout the day. Better yet, add some ice cubes to make it even more refreshing during those hot summer months.
9. Use cotton sheets on your bed
There’s nothing better after a long day than a good night’s rest, but you’ll be way more comfortable slipping under some cotton or other breathable natural fiber sheets. This can make the difference between tossing and turning (or waking up caked in sweat) or not. The simple switch from synthetic to cotton sheets can help you sleep more comfortably in the summer without having to crank down the temperature of your home to polar levels.
10. Put your pjs in freezer
This may sound a bit odd, but just like you might put your pjs or blanket in the dryer to warm them up in the winter before bed, putting them in the freezer can help you feel cooler as you drift off to sleep. This can be an especially fun one to do with kids—just remember not to leave them in there!
11. Freeze a hot water bottle or use an ice pack in bed
Again with the sleeping cooler at night tips, I know. But these simple tips can be a boon of relief when kids are complaining that it’s too hot to sleep. I have one kiddo who sleeps on the top bunk, and as we all know heat rises, and he can be particularly sensitive to room temperature. Freezing a hot water bottle (versus filling it with hot water) and putting it underneath your sheets at the foot of your bed can help cool your bed down, too. Ice packs work just the same.
12. Take a cold shower
This one might make some of y’all want to scream at the screen for recommending this, but a cold shower can be a great way to lower body heat (and wake up without coffee, ha!). If this one’s a little too intense for you, try ending your shower with a blast of cold water instead, even if it’s just over your head.
I hope you found these tips helpful and learned some new ways on how to keep your house cool in the summer. And a big thank you to Shafer Services Plus for making this post possible, and partnering with Maker Mama to help families keep cool on a budget!
Find more budget-friendly living ideas in the posts below:
Poor Mama’s Nutless Basil Pesto Sauce Recipe
20 Thrift Store Clothes Refashion DIYs