Summer’s here and while the time may be right for dancing in the street, it’s also time to get savvy on how to beat the heat in and around your home. High temperatures can wreak havoc on your home, not to mention your power bill, but there are ways to combat that escalating thermometer.

I write to you from a corner of the country that’s hot, really hot. The kind of hot that when the Weather Channel shows a map of the US, it’s always here that you’ll see flaming triple digits dancing around with a demon-like heat wave graphic. I’m talking about Laughlin, Nevada, where this week’s high will be up around a balmy 110 degrees. Egad! Gives me flashbacks of summers I’ve spent in Hot-lanta, New Orleans, and of course my hometown, NYC – a place where urban heat meets 100% humidity, meets never a good hair day, meets sweating in places I didn’t know I owned.

Heat MiserSuffice it to say, I’ve come face to face with Mister Heat Miser, repeatedly, and while he certainly did his damnedest to keep me hot and bothered, armed with my DIY arsenal, I smacked the hot right out of him.

Here are some cool summertime tips that I’ve used to save energy, money, and over all heat induced wear and tear in and around my home.

Even Your AC Needs Shade

Create a good amount of shade around your central AC unit – the cooler it stays, the more efficiently it will run. You can do this by planting shrubs or building a shade screen around the unit. However, DO NOT block any airflow – maintain a 3 foot clearance around the unit, and don’t plant anything that will drop a lot of blooms or leaves.

Batten Down The Hatches

Keep windows closed during the heat of the day, and draw blinds and draperies to keep the heat out. I have thick upholstery grade velvet drapes over my hottest windows that block the sun and heat. Yes, I know dreamy light linen drapery would seem so much more lovely than thick velvet, but trust me, in this case, save the linen for a cool flowy summer dress.

closing blinds

In addition to closing blinds and drapes, for extra sun and heat protection, use a do-it-yourself window tinting kit, especially on southern facing windows. Proper window tinting can reduce your cooling bills up to 30%. Try Gila® Energy Saving Window Films. Be sure to read all directions and warranties.

Also, keep hot air from sneaking into your home. Use caulk and weather stripping to seal air leaks around doors, windows, and AC window units. Try products like Duck Self-Adhesive Foam Seal.

Off Peak Action

Run your appliances in the early morning and late evening, when temperatures are at their lowest. Big appliances throw off a lot of heat, which will make your air conditioner work harder to cool down the house. Also, using big appliances at night reduces strain on the electrical grid during peak hours. Some utility companies even offer off-peak rates, so check it out.

Lower the temperature on your water heater. If leaving for vacation, shut-off your water heater entirely, or switch it to “vacation”, if your unit offers this setting.


Is your attic properly insulated? It gets hot up in there, sometime over 125 degrees, and that heat can penetrate into your home. A high R-value (measure of resistance to heat flow) is what you need to keep your home cool in the summer (and warm in the winter). Older homes’ attics only have R-values of R9-R19, while newer homes have an insulation of R25 or higher. Find out what’s going on in your attic.

Dirty Little AC Filters

Turn up your thermostat to 78 degrees when you are home and 85 degrees when you’re away. Be sure to change the air conditioning filter regularly. An AC unit with dirty filters can use 5 to 10 percent more energy – it can even age your unit prematurely. I always change my filters right before summer hits.

Put It In Reverse

Using a ceiling or room fan will make a higher thermostat setting more comfortable because moving the air will cool the room, and you. Also, for ceiling fans, flip the switch on the unit so it turns counter-clockwise in the summer. Switching blade direction will pull the cool air upward so you feel a cooling effect.

It’s just before midnight, perfect time for me to throw in a load of wash, especially since my patio thermometer tells me we’ve cooled down to a comfy 91 degrees.

Keep cool and carry on!

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.

Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.