Solutions for Summer Heat

Keep cool and save on your electric bills at the same time.

Save money, energy and the sweat of your brow with these basic steps to battle the summer swelter.

Block the sun. If you're installing new windows, your best defense against sun is heat-reflecting or low-emissivity windows. These windows contain a thin film sealed inside double-pane glass to slow heat absorption in summer and heat loss in winter.

Install film on existing windows. One type of film -- a window tint -- absorbs solar radiation; the other -- a reflective film -- reflects the sun's rays and is more transparent than the window tint. Install the type best suited to the climate in which you live. Films are left on windows year-round. Both should last at least 10 years.

Insulate your attic. If you live in a climate where summers are hot and winters are mild, also consider installing a radiant barrier -- a layer of foil to deflect radiant heat. Radiant barriers, however, do not replace the need for other insulation.

Attach awnings. Buy ready-made fabric or aluminum awnings, or build wood awnings that complement your house. Install awnings on east-, south-, and west-facing windows.

Mount outside sunscreens. Block the sun by covering windows that receive direct sunlight with screenings of bamboo, wood, fiberglass, or polypropylene.

Hang light-color interior shades. Reflect the sun with shades made with a shiny outer surface. Some fabric shades are backed by light-reflective materials.

Install a whole-house fan. If the humidity in your area isn't too uncomfortable, mount a whole-house fan in the ceiling just below the attic. These fans draw in cool air through open windows at night and push out hot air through attic vents.

Cross-ventilate. Exhaust air any time the temperature outside is cooler than it is inside. Make sure air can come in one open window and leave freely through another.

Add operative skylights. Hot air rises, so let it out at the top of the room through a new skylight. You can buy skylights with tinted glass to cut down on solar heat gain.

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