Forums » Around the House

Keeping house cool in the summer - ideas please!

    • 832 posts
    June 16, 2014 10:46 AM PDT

    We are in north central Texas, where summers are regularly 100+ degrees. Our home is older and doesn't have the best insulation, and our central a/c unit is at least 15-20 years old. We can't right now afford to replace the a/c unit or re-insulate our home, so I am looking for ideas/suggestions on keeping the temps down in the house! Some days when it is 100 outside, our a/c will run nonstop for hours just to keep the house around 81. :(

    Here is what we are already doing:

    - turn lights off when not in use, use cfl bulbs that don't put off much heat

    - try not to run the oven or hot appliances unless needed

    - use fans & ceiling fans in every room

    - digital thermostat, goes up to 82 during the day while we're gone, and 79-80 at night when we're home

    - Windows: all of our windows have blinds or shutters. The windows are plain storm windows, most have either plantation shutters or wood blinds on the inside, so nothing fancy. We have a huge glass back patio door which has drapes over it now, but they aren't very heavy or dark. I'm thinking of replacing these with some thermal/light blocking drapes, or adding blackout lining to the backs of these existing curtains, in hopes it will keep the room cooler. I also hung a light blocking panel over our front entry window to keep the sun out.

    I'm looking for any other suggestions. Are there any inexpensive or frugal ways to keep so much heat from coming in through the windows? Cling film or even white cardboard in the windows? Do thermal drapes really help? Any other suggestions? ANY tips would be appreciated.

    This post was edited by pmburk at June 16, 2014 12:24 PM PDT
    • 1476 posts
    June 16, 2014 2:19 PM PDT

    one thing I heard about was freeze a gallon of water put in bowl in front of a blowing pan it blows here . i belive  I heard about it this  here on Dollar stretcher ...  here usually by now it brutal but we manage to only trun on the air a couple of time when it was in the high 80's .

    i understand your problem summer usually is in in the midd 80 - 100.

    This post was edited by Gayla57 at June 16, 2014 2:27 PM PDT
    • 1210 posts
    June 16, 2014 7:09 PM PDT

    I've got styrofoam over my giant west windows (on the inside).  it's not pretty from the outside, but it's behind the drapes so it doesn't bother me.  seems to work best when it is touching the windows.   I sometimes put foil over the south windows in the worst part of summer.  Again, not pretty from the outside, but it helps.  A friend of mine has put up those car windshield shades over her south windows.

    i've found it works to shade the windows from the outside too, but we have so much wind here that that's tough to do.

    I try to blow fans out one end of my trailer during the night (with the wind) and open all the windows at the other end.  I wake up at about 4am and take out the fans, shut all the windows, and pull all the drapes.  This helps, but it gets much cooler here at night (in the 50s even when it's going to be in the 90s during the day).  I can usually keep it below 75degrees in the trailer.   i set up a little "kitchen" on the covered porch during the hottest part of the summer so I don't have to cook inside and heat up the place.  I've had a george forman grill and a rice cooker out there.   My mom uses an electric skillet on her 3 season porch in the summers in Iowa to avoid running the stove in the house.   I got a nice propane burner for this year's outside summer kitchen.  Luckily, my covered porch is on the east side so in the afternoon, it's usually pretty cool over there. 

    The ice in front of fans works a bit too.  So do tube tops!  (as long as no one stops by anyway)

    • 1476 posts
    June 16, 2014 10:03 PM PDT

    Maggie I have 3 girls only the youngest 19 ever wears a tube top we are all chubby she wore one the other day in the 90's and she was on comfortable.  we have central heat and air ... I  ran the air the other day and bill went up only $14 for the month DH said turn on the air and leave it the guy coming to install the power saving thing so when the temp dropps to a certain temp it will cycle off ..  I have to take meds to make me sleep so waking to tunt it down it not happening DH said we program this an it will work he understand what I live with so he is good about making life easier for me .. LIke he stand you put up with me so now it my job to make you comfortable .. we are able to pay for everything .. he is going to be here so he program it I dont like to wear a sweater in the middle of summer ..

    • 832 posts
    June 17, 2014 10:18 AM PDT

    Thanks for the tips!

    I found some blackout fabric at JoAnn, I am thinking about using that to line the backside of our curtains.

    I am interested in the styrofoam in the windows! I don't care about pretty so much, half of our windows are hidden by shrubbery or on the back & sides of the house and not really visible to neighbors, so I think I could get away with it on all but a few front ones.

    • 2792 posts
    June 17, 2014 6:36 PM PDT

    pmburk--I'm in NE Texas so understand completely!  Our central a/c compressor went out about 3 years ago and we couldn't afford to replace it so we got 2 window units.  We shut off the back room that we don't use (except as a sauna in the summer! LOL) and have started shutting the bathroom door also.  I can't sleep with bedroom door shut so we hung a sheet on a rod over that door and it really keeps that room cool.  I also have very thick black plastic over those windows. 


    • 832 posts
    June 18, 2014 11:41 AM PDT

    retired - Does the black plastic help?

    • 2792 posts
    June 19, 2014 2:55 AM PDT

    Yes.  I worked nights at 9-1-1 for 22 years and it not only blocked the heat, it blocked the light. We experimented with the bags and found the best ones were the contractors trash bags.  One of the officer didn't like the look of the black plastic so he bought thetiff  insulation that is white on one side and foil on the other.  He then drew lines across it about an inch and a half apart.  It really did look like shutters.



    • 832 posts
    June 20, 2014 11:21 AM PDT

    Thanks for the info! I wonder if I could staple the black plastic to a heavy piece of cardboard to use as a "frame" for easy set up & take down. Hmm...

    My husband has some material he can order through work, it is a heavy insulation type material with a metallic foil backing. Probably the same type material you mentioned, retired. We're going to try putting that in our windows that aren't visible from the street. That leaves 2 west-facing windows that we'll need to come up with a solution for, and a big back patio door. I'm thinking about the heavy blackout lining for curtains on those windows.

    This post was edited by pmburk at June 20, 2014 11:23 AM PDT
    • 832 posts
    June 22, 2014 3:49 PM PDT

    Well, my husband brought home several large pieces of rigid insulation with reflective foil backing. Yesterday I installed it in several of our windows - just cut to size & pushed it into the exterior brick window frame so it would stay in place. Definitely darkens the house, but very unattractive. :( We decided we'd try it for a few days and see how it works.

    Unfortunately, today it is about 72 and raining, so not a good experiment! Supposed ot stay like this for several days, so we'll have to wait until probably next weekend to see if it makes any noticeable difference!

    • 832 posts
    July 7, 2014 7:45 AM PDT

    So far so good on the insulation; I'm not sure how much it has helped, because it is just now starting to really heat up.

    I've also adjusted our automatic thermostat to go up to 83 during the days (8 AM to 5 PM) and then at 5 PM it goes down to 81, when we're home. Even with those warm temps, it still runs a lot though.

    This morning as I was leaving for work, I was drawing the curtains on our big glass patio back door and I could actually feel heat radiating off it - at 8 AM!!! Ugh. It is east facing. I'm not sure what to do about that. Maybe blackout material or some type of film?

    • 1210 posts
    July 7, 2014 9:49 AM PDT

    pmburk:  I like the rigid insulation idea. If it's ugly on the inside you could cover it with pretty fabric or wall paper or other paper or even something a bit reflective to brighten up the room.  I never bother with my styrofoam.  I just closed the drapes over them.  The drapes were ugly but not quite as unsightly as the styrofoam.

    • 832 posts
    July 7, 2014 2:42 PM PDT

    MaggieTrudeau: The inside is fine, we have drapes or plantation shutters on all of our windows, so you can't see anything anyway. From the outside though, it looks ugly. LOL! I only did 2 sides & the back of the house. The 2 sides aren't very visible to neighbors, one is overgrown and the other has a fence, but we have neighbors behind us so the back of the house is visible. My husband says the house looks like a crackhouse with the windows covered in the foil insulation. LOL. But if it helps I don't care!

    • 1210 posts
    July 15, 2014 10:56 AM PDT

    OMG!  I never thought about what it might look like from the outside!   But the neighbors probably can't see my windows for the overgrown grass in the yard.  Oh well.  I'm just not one to worry about what things look like.  i'm all about function.  Hope  you're keeping cool!