Simple steps can keep home's thermostat off in the fall

It might seem that Kansas weather jumps straight from winter to summer and then back to winter.

But in reality there are plenty of days in the fall when temperatures are perfectly moderate. And those days are great for turning off the thermostat and opening up the windows.

“You get the fresh air in there besides benefiting your energy bill,” said Delores Hughes, who runs a home energy auditing business with her husband Bob.

We talked to Hughes and other energy saving experts on how to make the most of fall’s pleasant weather.

Here’s what they had to say:

Windows

In the words of energy auditor Kirk Devine, “window management” is key. When it’s hot outside, keep the windows open to gather the cool air during the evening. Then, close them when you wake up so that cool air is captured inside the home.

On cold days the opposite is true. Make sure to keep windows, curtains or blinds opened in south-facing windows during the day. When the sun goes down, close them to keep the chill out.

When the weather turns really cold, install storm windows and keep the frames tightly latched to leave the cold air outside.

“Take those opportunities to manage windows, to draw the temperature air you want in and store it for later,” Devine said.

For those that don’t feel safe leaving the windows or curtains open, work with the blinds. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, when reflective blinds are closed and lowered on a sunny day, they can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent.

Blinds are more effective in warm weather since they reflect heat better than reducing heat loss.

Turn on the fan

On warm days, fans can be great for circulating the air through the house to create a cool breeze. Ceiling fans, which can make a house feel 4 degrees cooler, work best in rooms where ceilings are at least 8 feet high.

Be sure to turn off the fan before leaving the room or house. The DOE reminds folks that since fans create a wind chill effect, they cool people, not rooms.

For homes that have really high ceilings, Devine said it might be a good idea to reverse the fan when it turns colder so warm air is pushed down from the ceiling to the floor.

It’s a strategy that doesn’t work for homes with average ceiling heights, since even the warm air feels drafty on cold days.

Keep your house efficient

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, the less air that gets into a home, the more efficient it will be to heat or cool it. That means having the proper amount of insulation in the home and making sure windows are tightly sealed and caulked, Hughes said.

And before turning on the furnace, make sure its cleaned and the filters have been changed. A well-maintained furnace is more efficient.

Adapt your lifestyle

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to keep up with the weather is by throwing on a sweater or putting an extra blanket on the bed when it gets chilly outside. For the hardy, wear a hat or long underwear.

Other tips for staying warm are to use the oven to heat up food (not the microwave), stay active and drink warm beverages.

Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for the city of Lawrence and Douglas County, sweated through the early part of the summer before turning on her air conditioner.

By resisting the urge to change the thermostat, Horn said it helps her adjust to the change in season.

“Even just sleeping with it a little bit colder in the house helps me get used to it,” Horn said.

By Christine Metz

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