Beat the heat this summer! Home improvement expert Tom Kraeutler shares low-cost (and no-cost!) tips to keep your home cool all season.
With summer upon us, keeping your home cool creates a welcome escape. But you don't have to get hot-headed in your attempts to beat the heat. There are lots easy ways to cool down—and cool off—without spending a fortune.

Central Air Conditioning

If you are lucky enough to have a central air conditioning system, now is the time to have it serviced. Central air conditioners work by using a chemical refrigerant, like Freon, to soak up heat inside your house and then transfer that heat to the exterior.

Central air conditioning systems must be in tip-top shape for cooling a house efficiently. When properly working, the system should produce a temperature "differential" of 1 to 20 degrees, between return and supply air. This means that if the air being drawn into the system is 75 degrees, the air coming out should be at least 60 degrees. If it's not, your air conditioner is probably low on refrigerant and you are wasting electricity.

Even after servicing, make sure your central air conditioning system stays in shape by changing the filter at least once per month. At less than a dollar apiece, a clean filter can save you thousands on repairs by keeping the central air conditioning system free of clogs that can cause the compressor to break down.

Window Air Conditioning

Unlike central systems, window air conditioners don't need to be serviced each year. The installation, however, can make a big difference in how well the window air conditioner unit runs and how long it lasts. When setting a unit in the window, make sure it pitches slightly downward, toward the exterior, so that condensation trapped inside the window air conditioner unit will run out before it causes rust.

Next, make sure the gap between the half-open window and the window frame is filled with foam insulation. This keeps both warm air and insects from making their way into your house.

If the window unit has a three-prong plug, make sure to connect it to a grounded receptacle. If you must use a two-prong adapter, make sure you properly connect the adapter's grounding tap to the outlet. If you're unsure about electricity, don't take a chance—call in a professional electrician. Window air conditioners consume a lot of power, so it's important that they're wired properly.

Finally, once you have your window air conditioner unit installed, the window locks will no longer work. For security, cut a stick to fit between the top of the sash and the upper window frame. This may prevent a burglar from prying open your window.

Storm Windows

Keeping storm windows down when air conditioning is on actually helps keep your home cooler! Storm glass improves the thermal efficiency of your exterior windows and keeps cool air inside. One hint: Make sure the bottom of the storm window has "weep" holes. These small holes let water out of the inside of the storm window so trapped moisture won't rot your wooden window.

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