For most families, by far the most important preparation for weathering the summer heat is to make certain that your air-conditioning unit or units are in the best possible shape and ready to withstand the summer heat (see above). There are, however, a number of other things you can do to help ensure a comfortable summer:
1. Get the storm windows down and the screens up. If you didn’t weather-strip your doors for winter, do it for summer to keep the cool air in. If any windows are loose in their frames, consider weather-stripping them too.
2. Check the insulation in the attic, if any; insulation keeps the heat out as well as in. If any of it has compacted, add five to eight additional inches.
3. Change the direction of your ceiling fans. The machine that cycled the warm air downward from your high ceilings during the cold months can suck the hot air upward during the summer.
4. Cover windows, inside and out: drapes or shades on the inside, awnings or louvers on the outside. Outdoor awnings are especially efficient: they can reduce cooling costs by as much as 80 percent.
5. Consider using window reflectors made of cardboard covered with aluminum foil, especially on the parts of the house that get maximum sunshine.
5. Use window air conditioners (they are not as efficient as room a.c.’s, but they are less expensive and can do a good job, especially in smaller spaces.
8. If you haven’t already, change over to compact fluorescent light bulbs. In addition to lasting much, much longer and more than repaying their greater cost, they generate much less heat.
9. Finally-don’t laugh-consider using your barbecue more often, and wearing wrinkle-free clothes during the hottest times. Chores like cooking and ironing create extra-hard work for your cooling system, and lots of extra expense.