Apartment Earth: Energy-Efficient Ways to Cool Off

Living in a rental without central air conditioning? You're not alone. So, while you're debating the merits of buying a window air conditioning unit, a fan, or just sitting around your place naked, here are some ways to evaluate effectiveness and stay cool.

SEER Rating
Window air conditioning units are rated with SEER - which stands for seasonal energy-efficiency rating. The SEER rating is equal to BTUs of cooling supplied during the year divided by the kilowatt-hours of electricity consumed. The higher the rating, the more efficient. When shopping, compare SEER ratings on units that have the same BTU capacity.

Like other environmentally friendly products, it may cost more on the front-end but the electricity savings will pay off over time, particularly as electricity prices rise.

It may be cheaper to run a fan instead of a window a/c unit. A fan can make you feel several degrees cooler. You can easily add a ceiling fan using instructions here. Portable fans are great, too, if you can create a cross-breeze. In combination with a ceiling fan, they work well.

Other Ways to Chill
You might discover that a window air conditioning unit isn't even necessary if you follow a few tips.

  • Use window shades and/or Energy Film to block solar gain, particularly on southern exposures.
  • Turn off unnecessary electrical equipment. For example, desktop computers and peripherals can quickly heat a room. Overhead lights can also heat a room.
  • Clean the coils on your refrigerator. The fridge uses a lot of electricity and can contribute to overall heat in the apartment.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Shower regularly and/or keep some wet rags to keep your skin cool.
  • Open windows at night if possible. Then, in the morning, close everything up, including the window shades.
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