How I saved money on Air Conditioning

mrsbeasleyApril 27, 2013

Last summer I made a special window shade for my south facing window in order to save money on air conditioning. By lowering my shade in the morning, I was able to cut my air conditioning usage down to less than 2 hours/day on a hot day. This is how I did it.

I went to the dollar store and purchased a number of those shiny shields that one can put on their car windshield in order to stop their car from heating up. These shields are foam on one side and mylar on the other.
I cut them and fastened them together with shiny duct tape, so that I had a piece the size of my the window. I cut fabric to match my room that was the same size.

I laid the fabric on the foam side and fastened the fabric to the heat shield with double sided tape.

I found instructions for making a Roman Shade on the internet, and made my shade by putting the shiny side toward the glass, and the fabric side facing the room. It was all put together with duct tape and double sided tape.

Each evening when it was starting to cool outside, I would raise the shade and open the window. In the morning I would close the window and lower the shade in order to keep the cool in.

I should add that I went outside, and looked at the window when the shade was lowered, and it looked really tacky. My south facing window looks onto a field and forest, and no-one can see the window so it doesn't bother me, but I plan on making a shade for my west facing window and this one will have muslin over the shiny side.

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I just close my drapes during the day.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 1:13PM
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I don't understand stuff like this. Our living area on the house before this one, faced the west. My husband walked over to the windows and said we need to close curtains. I walked over there with him and said put your hand close to the window and see if you feel any heat...he said no. My reply was why close the curtains? We had an awning over the window and the upper deck had a slat roof that block 50% of the sun. I love the curtains open, we fed the birds and squirrels, the yard was planted with beautiful plants and we had a pond. Why block all of that if you don't have to. Our living area in this house faces the south. In the winter we have wonderful natural solar heat and in the summer the sun is high in the sky so it is not shining directly on the heat. The sun does fade my furniture in the winter, but it is a cheap price to pay for seeing a hummer or a wood pecker 3 ft from chair.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 6:27PM
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EmmaR, you don't understand what, exactly? That some people are in an environment where they need to find away to block excess heat?
I live in Texas and my home would be like an oven if I did not take advantage of these kinds of ideas. I just put reflective window film on most of my windows a few weeks ago. I installed a window fan to exhaust heat from the attic bedroom. I welcome ideas to cope with the Texas heat. I certainly understand that not everyone has those problems, we are a diverse group.
These ideas can not only save money, they can mean the difference in whether the heat levels are safe, or not, especially for the ill or older folks like myself.
Thank you, Mrs. Beasley.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 9:52PM
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Mrs. Beasley, a few years ago I did a similar thing with the car window covers on our west windows and it worked like a charm. I used spray adhesive to stick material to them to make them look nicer. Since they fold, I was able to fold the top fold over a tension rod to keep it up in the window frame, and fold it up from the bottom and secure them with a ribbon when I wanted them to be up, and they fit nicely under the Levolor shades, so they weren't seen at all, except from the outside.

We've since installed awnings and I've replaced those car shades with thermal drapes hemmed to fit the length of the window. The light is diffused through the thermal drapes and the blinds, so it's not quite as dark in the rooms. I have a spring tension rod in the top to hold them up, and one in the bottom hem when I want it up. These help both summer and winter, and we can easily remove them when they aren't needed.

I can raise my Levolor shades to the top of the window, then raise the drape by moving the bottom rod under the drape to the top of the window frame and it looks like a balloon shade, which was more convenient to put up and down, and nicer looking than the car shades were.

Although our awnings are very beneficial, there is a point in the day where the sun is lower than what the awnings cover and we get full direct sunlight on the west side of our home because there are no trees or homes to block it. (The lots behind us have yet to be developed.) Therefore, since the awnings alone don't get the job done, we've added layers of protection for both heat and cold, because in Kansas we get both extremes.

1. UV protecting screens (thick black screen which blocks 80-90% of the UV rays). When our home was built it had half-screens - which only covered the bottom of the windows, and after the first summer here we replaced them with full UV protecting screens. This helps a great deal, but the added layers of covering help even more.

2. awnings (we also considered adding working shutters)

3. UV protecting glass (or add the plastic film to them)

4. honeycomb Levolor shades

5. thermal drapes/curtains under the shades

6. trellis and vines on the deck to block the setting summer sun and shade the deck

7. In the winter we install bubble wrap on the windows for additional insulation during the coldest months. For more information on bubble wrap insulation, check the link below. It would be very beneficial to anyone who has older single-glazed windows or don't have storm windows over them in the winter. Or for people who rent, because it's inexpensive, really works, and is reversible.

8. Doors count too.... Storm door with UV coated glass over the west door, and we added the dark film to it. In the summer we slide the glass window on the storm door down (at least partially) which exposes the screen, for air ventilation. Otherwise, the door going into the house will get extremely hot.

9. I lined heavy drapes with insulated curtains that go from floor to just over the doors. They hang in a decorative oak cornice at the top, which matches our oak trim. The patio door is a glass French Door (facing W.), and the main entrance door is half glass and a side light of glass (facing E.). In the afternoon, we get enough glare from the garage doors of our neighbor across the street to raise the temperature by 5+ degrees F. in the entrance of our home without the drapes over the door and side light. The other door (across the living room) goes out to the deck on the west side of the house, and we get intense heat in the afternoons, even though it's covered with an awning. The insulated drapes covering the door add both insulation from heat and cold, and privacy.

10. Added insulation at all the switch plates and plugins on the exterior walls to help stop drafts. Check any recessed ceiling lights for drafts.

11. When we enter/exit our home we go through the laundry room next to the kitchen, and it goes out to the garage. By keeping the door between the kitchen and the laundry room shut, the laundry room acts like an air-lock. There is only the small amount of air exchanged in the laundry room, rather than the entire house like when the other doors are open.

12. When we repainted our interior walls recently, we looked for special paint to help block the heat but couldn't find any locally, but that would be one more layer we would have added.

13. Shade your air conditioner compressor unit, which helps it run cooler. We use one of our older patio umbrellas for the task.

14. A few years ago we installed a water mister on the compressor unit called a Cool-N-Save system (Ed Begley, Jr. endorsed it), and that helped lower cooling costs. Unfortunately, our water is too hard, even with the filter on the unit, to work well.

15. Our 2-car attached garage is another place we addressed. In order to move the oppressive heat from the windowless garage in the summer, we open the trap door on the ceiling which gives access to the roof/attic area so air can flow out the roof vents. We leave the back door to the courtyard open and the window down on the storm door (which exposes the screen) to aid in air flow. We also raise our garage doors a few inches for additional air flow. We also devised a way to block the opening under the garage door to keep most "critters" out but let air in. Since we started doing this, all our neighbors have borrowed the same idea. This lowers the temperature in the garage by quite a bit.

16. Change any incandescent light bulbs to LED or CFL as they burn out. It's amazing how much heat is generated by incandescent lights. We've switched to nearly all LED lights over the last few years.

17. In order to keep the cold out of the basement, we covered our egress windows with a frame of 2x4s and corrugated clear plastic over the top to let light into the basement. We can actually use the window well on the north side of the basement like a root cellar. It maintains a good temperature all winter for just that use.

In another home we used rigid styrofoam insulation, cut to fit and covered with fabric using spray adhesive, to cover the egress windows from the inside. This is another method that can work in other windows like a shutter in winter or summer. In that same townhouse I made thermal window quilts for all the windows, but fortunately there weren't very many windows because they were a lot of work ;-).

For your reading pleasure... You might want to check the library for the book, "Movable Insulation" by William K. Langdon. It has a lot of great ideas. It may be a little out-of-date since it was written in 1980, and there are new things on the market in the way of insulation we can incorporate in many of the ideas to up-date them. Another book with great ideas is "Better Homes and Gardens Energy-Saving Projects You Can Build" - copyright 1979.


Here is a link that might be useful: Bubblewrap window insulation

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 10:27AM
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I understand saving money I was the money person in my marriage and when I first married it was pay day to pay day living. I don't understand living in a closed up home. If no heat is coming through those windows. My friend and neighbor suffered from depression and I told her pull your shades, let the light and the world in. Most of the seniors in my development are so locked into their homes, it's like they are afraid of the bogey man. As I sit at my PC I can see out my window, watch the walkers go buy with their dogs and see the geese walking down the street. LOL

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 8:53AM
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Mrsbeasley gave some perfectly sound and inexpensive tips to help anyone who wishes to use those tips to save money. After all, this is the money saving forum...... Using the tip is a choice we can make for ourselves whether it's understood by everyone, or not. CHOICE - get it?

BTW - I just closed the house up, pulled the curtains and shades down so I can maintain an interior temperature in the 70's while the outside temperature goes up to the 80's today, and I won't have to turn the air conditioner on. What I understand is that it will stay cool and save me money. I'm not afraid of the dark; and I got plenty of sunshine working in the garden and yard this morning.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 11:55AM
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I got it, I just wonder sometimes if there is a real need to save or if it is a hobby like my Mom's. She saved so much on her utilities that maintenance men came out and checked her meters to see if they were working properly, they came out a lot. We of course were the recipient of her savings, but we would rather her have the pleasure of spending some of it and not wearing long johns under her clothes to keep warm.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 3:50PM
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EmmaR; I gather that you must live in a cooler location than some. You asked your husband if he felt the heat coming in and he didn't. I can guarantee you that if your husband was at our house in the mid morning near an east facing widow (or afternoon until blocked by trees facing west) he could easily feel the radiant heat beating on him. In winter, this is wonderful as it heats a cool room, but in spring and summer, not so much.

Now I personally understand your concern about the view as I have similar feelings and would open my blinds as soon as the sun stopped beaming into our room, but DW keeps them closed to block the glare of outside light from the TV screen.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 4:04PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

This forum can be difficult to navigate as it is about saving money- not whether the money should be saved instead of spending it.
I think all tips are welcomed, even the ones we think extreme, we can pick and choose what suits our lifestyle.

Emma, try and see things from the perspective of someone....with huge medical bills facing foreclosure, for example. Or someone laid off at work....
That person wants to know ALL ways to save money, not just ones that enhance a pleasant lifestyle. They won't apply to you so pass them by.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 12:23PM
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I enjoy reading tips like this. It's not currently practical for me, but may be some time in the future.

I used to live in a house that was poorly built. The windows leaked a lot of air. I wanted the natural light from outside without the air leak. I bought a tension rod to hang of the inside of the window. I cut down a clear shower curtain to fit. I may have added a draft dodger. The shower curtain allowed light in, but blocked out hot and cold air.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 11:59AM
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Last summer my son put lengths of landscaping fabric (that stuff you put on your garden to keep the weeds out) over curtain rods in his sunniest room. I was really impressed and he said it really helped keep the room cool. Since he pays for his own central air he's gotten pretty inventive.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 2:47PM
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I totally agree with Bumblebeez. Those with ideas can set them out and people can use them as they wish or need. And who knows when someday, whether or not now, these ideas could help each of us.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 3:56PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I love your idea, and I just might use it at our new home which has 20+ windows, faces East/west, and is in complete renovation mode with nothing on any windows.

You reminded me to pull the shades (solar) which we currently have every afternoon when the sun hits the windows. I often forget, and turn on the AC.

If you remember to close the shades, they do save a lot on electricity.

Did I mention average summer temps here are 100+ degrees?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 4:07PM
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Emma - we would rather her have the pleasure of spending some of it and not wearing long johns under her clothes to keep warm.

I wear ski underwear under my clothes much of the winter, because I'm going inside and outside and absolutely HATE walking from cold outside to hot indoors. So I keep the indoors at 60-65 and wear my base layers.

And the OP has a wonderful idea - selectively blocking certain windows can save a bundle on utility bills. It doesn't mean living in the dark, it means being advertent. I close the east draperies until noonish and then open them. Then I close the west drapes until after sundown.

And I install outdoor sunshades on the east and west windows. Because in the SW, every photon = heat.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 7:27PM
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Mrs B I love your idea, I would love to see the finished shade. I'll do whatever it takes to block out the heat & sun and save the money for the vet bills rather than the electric company anyday, have you any ideas for the winter, I get an arctic breeze blowing through my apartment windows and it sucks my heat right out, I'm in upstate NY and it gets very cold.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 5:01PM
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I'm including a link for applying bubble wrap to your windows for additional insulation in the winter, using nothing more than water from a spritz bottle, so it's easy to do and completely reversible. We've been using this tip during the winter for a number of years and getting great results. Our home is 7-years old and has energy efficient windows and we can still tell a difference - especially the bay window in the dining room when we sit down to eat.

Tips about using this method....

-Cut your bubble wrap just slightly smaller than your window. If the bubble wrap is a little too generous and is larger than the glass, it will quickly get air under it and begin to pull away from the window.

-Check your bubble wrap occasionally and spritz it with water again if it's pulling away from the window.

-If you have hard water, use distilled water for the application. Hard water contains minerals that can actually etch your windows.

-Bubble wrap with large bubbles works the best, but we have plenty of windows that have bubble wrap with small bubbles on it.

-Check furniture stores for a free or cheap source for bubble wrap.


Here is a link that might be useful: Bubble wrap window insulation

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 4:30AM
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Grainlady, Thank you for such a great tip & the link, I can start looking for bubble wrap now. Thanks again Christine

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 7:21AM
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I'm with you on this one Emma. I prefer to see what is outside my window. I open up the curtains during the day. I like my house to be light filled, not dark. I love watching the birds, critters that visit our yard. I have veggie and flower gardens that we planted and love to walk around in and view from the house and wrap around porch.
The tip that MrsBeasley gave is a bit extreme for me, but not for others and that is okay. This is a money saving tips forum not a frugal forum. One may save money in a different area of the home or lifestyle. I cook and bake the majority of the time from scratch. It is what I like to do is healthier for my family and saves money. I grow many of the veggies we eat. We have a wood burning stove(wood is free), thermal draperies, and put plastic over the windows in the winter. We have rain barrels to catch the rain for the gardens. We have a whole house fan in addition to AC. I save money doing those things. What is that saying "different strokes for different folks". But I agree with you, let the light and the world in. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 12:21PM
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I live in the mid west and it does get hot, especially on the west side, but putting up an awning and a deck cover on the west side helped a great deal. I think it is just a personal choice. My present home being fairly new is well insulated and it has appliances that are energy savers. I set my thermostat on 70 in the winter and 77 in the summer.

LG: I have gotten colder as I aged and in the winter I wear umm, not sure what to call them. More like tights than long underwear and I wear a camisole. The tights fit well in the crotch and they don't make me feel smothered in heavy clothes. They are very feminine and feel great. I have always layer the upper body because I don't care much for coats.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 10:08PM
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