Ask Eartha: Keeping cool in summer |

Ask Eartha: Keeping cool in summer

special to the daily

I work from home and my upstairs office heats up on warm summer days. A few days a year, it gets really balmy and I need to turn on the fan. Am I using more energy by using fans than I would if I used an energy-efficient air conditioner?

Andy, Breckenridge

We’re lucky that we live in a relatively cool climate and many of us don’t need A/C. However, even in Summit County, the temperatures can become uncomfortable on sunny summer days. The easy answer to your question is: As long as your fan is keeping you cool enough, stick with it instead of buying an A/C unit. Fans usually consume less electricity than a very efficient window air conditioner, and they certainly consume less energy than an older model air conditioner.

More than three-quarters of U.S. households have air conditioners,

and these energy hogs are responsible for nearly 5 percent of our annual

electricity production. Air conditioners may contain environmentally damaging refrigerants, and while these might not cause damage until they’re disposed of, it still would be better to avoid using them.

Before you plug in your fan and grab an ice cold slushy, take a look at what you have in your office in the way of window treatments and blinds. Just like in the winter, your windows and window treatments can be used to regulate the temperature of your office. At night, when things are cool, keep your windows open to let the cold air in. When the sun comes up, you can trap some of that cool air by closing your windows, and you can reduce heat gain by closing the blinds or drapes.

Also, watch out for lighting and appliances that put off heat. Some electrical equipment can generate a lot

of heat. Keep any of these heat sources away from your thermostat, because they throw off the system.

If you have a ceiling fan, be sure to use it. Ceiling fans use less energy than a floor fan and they are better air circulators, keeping your entire office feeling cooler. They can make

a huge difference in how your house feels in the summer.

Another option for keeping your office is cool is to install a window fan. Window fans should be located on the leeward side of the house facing out (and don’t forget to keep other windows and interior doors open to allow airflow!).

Remember, when it’s sizzling outside, dress for the weather. With the luxury of working from home, you can designate your office as clothing optional or choose the less offensive route (up for debate) and ditch your suit and tie for a pair of board shorts and a button-down Hawaiian shirt. Remember, it’s all about being cool and staying cool!

Eartha Steward is written by Jennifer Santry and Erin Makowsky, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylish shoes.

Submit questions to Eartha at or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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