Tips for a Cooler Home in Southern California

How to stay more comfortable for less money in the Los Angeles summer heat

It’s officially summer and after several false starts this year, it’s likely to get very hot for us in the Los Angeles area — so we offer these ways to keep your house cooler and lower your air-conditioning bills. We begin with ideas from Mike Rogers, Senior Vice President of GreenHomes America because GreenHomes was so great helping us with our Home Energy Audit feature. Rogers explains that some of these steps can be performed by any or condo or homeowner, even perhaps apartment resident, while others might require a professional contractor.

Ten Tips for a Cooler Home

1) Keep the heat out! It sounds obvious, but during the day, if it’s cooler inside than out, keep windows shut and shades down to block out direct sunlight. Open the windows at night when cools down outside. Check with your local home performance contractor (HPC) about installing solar shades and new low solar heat gain windows, which can block the heat from the sun. 2) Ceiling fans (and other fans) help you stay comfortable — but only while you’re in the room. The fan motors actually generate heat, so turn them off when you’re not there. 3) Use a bath fan that vents to the outside to remove the heat and moisture you create while showering. If you don’t have a bath fan, hiring a contractor to install one can save you money in the long-run and will make you more comfortable in warm or hot weather — and we have plenty of that in the Los Angeles area. 4) Use a kitchen exhaust fan to remove heat and moisture created by cooking. This has the added benefit of removing pollutants, especially if you cook with gas or propane 5) Use efficient lighting. Old-fashioned Incandescent and those bright torchiere-style halogen lights actually use most of their energy creating heat, which means that you’re overpaying and overheating your house if you’re using them. Compact florescent light bulbs stay cool and have improved greatly over the past several years. The humming, slow starts, and ghoulish colors of years past are gone. There are also several LED light fixtures ready for use in homes. For the best efficiency, always choose ENERGY STAR certified models when purchasing lighting appliances. says: “ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) provide high-quality light output, use 75% less energy, and last 6–10 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs, saving money on energy bills and replacement costs.” 6) If you have a forced air heating or cooling system you can be losing as much as 30% of that cooled air through leaky ducts. Make sure the system’s ducts in your attic and/or crawl space is sealed and insulated . 7) Insulate and air-seal your attic. In the summer, temperatures in the attic often climb to more than 140-degrees. Proper insulation can keep this heat from conducting down into your home. But before you insulate, seal around chimneys, flues, plumbing pipes, recessed lighting, and any other leaks and holes. 8) If you have a central air-conditioner, make sure it’s well maintained. If it’s more than 10 years old, consider replacing with a high-efficiency unit, particularly one that qualifies for ENERGY STAR. If you’re buying a window air-conditioner or dehumidifier, look for the ENERGY STAR, too (Tax credits may apply). 9) Planting deciduous (leaf-shedding) trees on the sunny sides of a house can help keep your home cool in the summer. Maples, oaks, and birches are good trees to consider. Because they drop their leaves in the fall, they let sunlight through to help warm your house in the winter. If your home has no issues about keeping warm in the winter months, any shade trees are good choices. 10) To really find the trouble spots in your home — and to be sure they’re addressed properly, get a comprehensive home assessment. A Home Performance Contractor can find the trouble spots in your home and take the proper steps to fix them, including repair and reinstallation. [Check out our article on the home energy audit.] After doing any work around the house, make sure to have combustion equipment like furnaces and water heaters tested by a professional to make sure they’re running safely and efficiently. Address Carbon Monoxide (CO) Issues Immediately.

More Tips for a Cooler Home

Open your refrigerator as few times as possible. Each time you open it, it takes energy to cool the refrigerator down again. So make a mental list of what you need for your fridge and grab it all at once rather than opening and closing it several times. Cook multipe meals while you have the oven on to cook just one. That way you can reheating that second or third meal in the microwave and not heat your home as much as when you use your oven. Use ENERGY STAR energy efficient appliances. Turn off the lights. Your father was right. Lights give off heat. Besides, you’ll save money. says: “…turn off your lights when leaving a room. Turning off just one 60-watt incandescent bulb that would otherwise burn eight hours a day can save about $15 per year!” If you must use air conditioning when you are not home, consider a programmable thermostat to minimize its use. Or look for a model that has a timer. That way you have the benefit of the cool, but you’re not over-using it. Do your laundry with cold water whenever possible. Cold water doens’t require heating, and the machine won’t heat your room. Make your clothing dryer efficient. A clean the lint trap allows clothing to dry faster. Clear the lint filter before every load. Run it with a full load. Don’t run the drier for longer than necessary. If you can, make sure your vent is clear.  
GreenHomes is one of the largest industry-accredited, single-source provider of home performance contracting (HPC). GreenHomes offers an award-winning home improvement service that significantly enhances the comfort, energy efficiency, and air quality of existing single-family homes. GreenHomes delivers a full line of services including comprehensive home assessments, windows and doors, furnaces and boilers, on-demand hot water heating, insulation and air-sealing, indoor air quality, and solar systems. GreenHomes also helps homeowners conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions to help them do their part to protect the environment and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil. GreenHomes works with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR and is a Building Performance Institute (BPI) accredited organization. For more info call (315) 474-6549 or visit