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Concerned that your home feels like a kiln every summer? You don’t have to break the bank to find and implement high-impact solutions that will also improve your home’s climate resilience, energy efficiency, and resale value in one fell swoop. Check out these seven tips to help you get started.

1. Make Strategic Use of Windows

A simple way to reduce indoor heat is to open windows on opposite ends of your house, especially in the evening. Just be sure to leave the doors inside your home open (and to power down your AC system). The resulting cross breezes are a free way to increase your home’s ventilation and keep the Farenheit in check.

Related Post: Pearl’s Guide to Energy-Efficient Windows

2. Can Your Incandescents

If you haven’t done so already, summer is the season to replace conventional incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. Why? Never mind the fact that LED bulbs are 75% more energy efficient than their incandescent counterparts — they also give off roughly 90% of their energy as heat. So making the switch is an easy way to improve summertime home temperatures, while saving money on electricity to boot.

Related Post: How Lighting Impacts Your Home's Energy Efficiency

3. Create Shade with Awnings

Don’t have significant tree coverage to prevent direct sunlight from streaming in through your windows? While that might be the recipe for much-needed Vitamin D and lower utility bills in winter, it can create stifling heat in the summer.

In that case, installing awnings above your windows represents a simple, relatively low-cost fix — and you stand to reduce solar heat gain by anywhere from 65% to 77%, too, according to the EPA.

4. Conduct an Energy Audit

Contemplating a comprehensive, system-level fix to keep your home cool this summer? That makes sense, given that around 50% of your total energy costs are related to heating and cooling. But the reality is, the best AC system in the world won’t make a dent if your “building shell,” the barrier between indoor and outdoor air, leaks. That’s why the first step in this direction is to hire a professional contractor to carry out an energy audit — just make sure a blower door test is included, too.

What’s the importance of a blower door test, exactly? It’s simple: An energy auditor will use it to pinpoint the number of air changes per hour (ACH), or how frequently the total air volume is removed and replaced, on an hourly basis. It’s the best way of knowing just how well sealed — or how leaky — your home is, in other words, and therefore a necessary step before you upgrade your home cooling system.

Related Post: What's a Home Energy Audit and When Do I Need One?

5. Don’t Overlook Air Sealing

Once you’ve got your home energy audit squared away, you can start plugging whatever gaps might exist — a process known as “air sealing” — and making improvements that translate to better long-term health, comfort, and savings. It’s the final step before you should consider a cooling system upgrade.

Again, you’ll need to work with a professional, who will identify and seal leaks under insulation, between ceiling joists and sheetrock, around light fixtures, and in corners where sheetrock meets the wall. Fixing problems like these won’t necessarily be expensive: In many cases, and especially in homes with newer insulation, spray-foaming the gaps is sufficient to seal the plane.

Finally, once the work is completed, your contractor should run a second blower door test (see above) to validate that your house has been properly air sealed.

Related Post: Second Step to a High-Performing Home: Air Sealing

6. Upgrade Your Cooling System (and More)

If you’re ready to upgrade your home’s cooling system, your best bet is to look for the products with the ENERGY STAR® certification. All central air conditioners with this certification have higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and energy efficiency ratio (EER) ratings than conventional models, for example, and they use eight percent less energy on average. So this is a smart place to start if you want to have a high-performing home.

But there is one important caveat to note here: Namely, because central air conditioners require a blower motor — which is typically part of the furnace — it is recommended that you replace your heating system and your cooling system at the same time. Otherwise, your new energy-efficient air conditioner may not perform to its rated efficiency. The good news, though, is that if you decide to install a new heat pump along with your cooling system, you may qualify for significant rebates (up to $8,000) and tax credits under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Related Post: Is a Heat Pump Right for Your Home?

7. Keep Your Air Filters Clean

Wondering why your air conditioner suddenly seems to be doing its job less effectively? If so, it’s probably a sign that it’s time to change the air filters, as clogged or dirty filters not only force your system to work harder, but also impact your indoor air quality as well (not to mention the increase in your electric bills). So be sure to clean the air filters on a two-to-three-week cycle. Depending on the system you have installed in your home, you might also need to replace them every few months or so as well.

Related Post: Put Your HVAC at the Top of Your Spring Cleaning List

How to Get Started

In the meantime, take advantage of every opportunity to cool your home while saving costs with Green Door's Rebates Finder. Just download Green Door, then create an account for free — once you're on the app, you can browse local rebates and tax credits, and even get the documentation you need to claim them, all in one place. Plus, the app is updated regularly to ensure you always have the most current information at your fingertips.

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