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How to stay warm in hot weather with air conditioning and fans

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It's a common debate among families and roommates: what temperature is best to set the thermostat at? Such discussions can get heated when experiencing a Texas summer.

The Farmers' Almanac, which has been proven to be 80 to 85 percent accurate, predicts “sweltering temperatures” for Texas this summer.

“Hold on to your umbrellas… and turn on your air conditioning,” the almanac says. “Summer is coming early this year and could bring with it the hottest temperatures ever!”

More: The Farmers' Almanac predicts a “hot” summer in Texas. How accurate is the forecast?

The almanac's 200-year-old mathematical and astronomical formula predicts a “hot, rainy” summer for the South Central region, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas.

What temperature should I set my air conditioner to this summer?

While parts of Texas may have similar temperatures, other factors can affect thermostat preferences. In addition to outside temperatures, the decision can be based on:

  • What feels comfortable for you and the other people in your household
  • The health status of the people in your household
  • How well your home is insulated and otherwise protected from heat
  • What other cooling methods do you use (floor fans, ceiling fans, closed curtains/blinds, etc.)
  • How much are you willing to pay for your electricity bill?

People also read: Temperatures are rising in Texas. When is it too early or too late to mow the lawn?

Is 78 the “magic number”?

The U.S. Department of Energy has touted 78 degrees as the ideal temperature for summer—it allows for the greatest savings without too much inconvenience.

Should I turn off my air conditioning at night and open the windows?

If you don't have central air conditioning, opening windows and turning on fans is a good alternative to circulate air, but it can be counterproductive if you use the air conditioner during the day.

Depending on the humidity level, leaving windows open can allow hot, humid air in. This air is not only uncomfortable, but can also be absorbed by carpets and furniture, which encourages mold growth.

Should I turn off my air conditioning when I go to work or on vacation?

Texas Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 85 degrees while you're away to save up to 10% on your annual costs.

Whether this is worth it depends on the length of your absence and your personal preferences. Depending on the outside temperature and the size of your home, it may take some time until the conditions are comfortable again.

Keep the home cooler for people who are more sensitive to heat

According to the Centers for Disease Control, older adults are more vulnerable to heat stress. They don't adapt as well to temperature changes, are more likely to have chronic illnesses that alter their normal responses to heat, and are more likely to take prescription medications that affect the body's ability to regulate temperature.

Older people are also more susceptible to Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. And scorching heat can be even more dangerous for people who don't notice the overheating, don't understand what it means, have impaired judgment, or can't tell anyone about it.

How can I protect my pets this summer?

While humans can easily adjust the thermostat when they feel uncomfortable, most pets cannot. These pets are at risk of heat stroke if they cannot cool down.

Signs of overheating in pets include frantic panting, extreme drooling, and heavy breathing. To avoid injury, pets should drink plenty of fluids, stay indoors during the midday heat, and use fans and air conditioning to cool down on particularly hot days.

More on pet safety: How to Keep Dogs Cool in Extreme Heat: Tips to Keep Your Pup Cool Without Air Conditioning

How can I save money when running an air conditioner?

Maybe turning off the air conditioning is out of the question, but you still don't want to spend too much money this summer. Here are some tips to help reduce the strain on your air conditioning:

  • Use a programmable or smart thermostat. Raise the temperature to 78–82 degrees or more while you are at work, traveling, or at night (if possible).
  • Start a fan club. While fans don't cool the air, they do make you feel better because the moving air cools your skin and helps your body evaporate sweat. Turn on your ceiling fans and place smaller fans throughout to help circulate air. Be sure to turn them off when you leave the room to save even more.
  • Change your air conditioning filter regularly. It's easy to do and works wonders when it comes to reducing the strain on your air conditioner. Dirty or clogged filters make the air conditioner work harder. Don't use a heavier filter than necessary. Some promise to filter out all viruses, pollutants and pet dander, but they also restrict airflow and can make your air conditioner work harder. The government's Energy Star program suggests changing your air conditioner's filter every three months, but says if it looks dirty after a month, feel free to replace it.
  • Close curtains and blinds. If you protect the house from direct sunlight, you can prevent the interior from heating up.
  • Keep the ventilation slots clear. Blocking vents blocks airflow. You want airflow to help the room cool to the temperature the thermostat is set at.
  • Check your insulation and seals. When heat enters the house (and cool air escapes), your air conditioner has to work harder. Check the seals on windows and doors and make sure your attic is insulated.
  • Close doors and ventilation slots in rooms you are not using. Why pay to cool a room you don't need? Close the vents in your guest room, utility room, or any other room you don't regularly use and keep the door closed. But don't close rooms that are connected to other rooms you do use, or you'll block airflow through the area.
  • Reduce your electricity bill elsewhere. Unplug appliances and machines that use electricity even when turned off, like TVs, air fryers, and video game consoles. Turn off lights when you're not using them. Lower the water temperature to 120. Use cold water in the washing machine. Use smaller appliances in the kitchen. Basically anything your parents always told you not to do. Sorry.
  • Keep your air conditioning system maintained and functioning. Repair companies are busy in the summer and if your car breaks down, they may not be able to come to you right away. Keep your car in good condition Before it starts making strange noises.

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How to stay cool in summer

It's important to keep cool as the weather gets warmer. Here are 4 tips for summer.

Problem solved, problem solved

How often should I have my air conditioning serviced?

ENERGY STAR recommends once a year in the spring, but Air Tech of Houston AC & Plumbing suggests twice a year for Texans.

What can I do to maintain my air conditioning system?

  • Change or clean the air filter every month.
  • Keep leaves, shrubs and other debris at least 18 inches away from the outdoor unit to avoid blocking airflow. Don't cover the condenser coil outside just to make your house look nicer. Cooler is more important.
  • If you have an outside drain, keep it clear and do not clog it.

How do I know if my air conditioning needs to be replaced?

Your air conditioner needs to be repaired if it stops working (obviously), makes loud noises when running, or can't keep your house cool to at least 25 degrees. But it may need to be replaced if it's more than 10-15 years old, your energy bills have skyrocketed, and you keep having to get it repaired.

Older units have other problems, such as increasingly scarce parts or outdated refrigerant. The U.S. stopped producing Freon in 2020, and older units used R-22 Freon, which is becoming increasingly difficult to find. And newer systems are more energy efficient.

USA TODAY reporters CA Bridges and Olivia Munson contributed to this report.