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Here’s how to stay cool this summer

Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

Duke Energy recently sent out a release to remind us about ways to improve the efficiency of our cooling systems, so we can reduce bills and keep our homes comfortable through the crushing heat of late summer.

All the company’s tips are good, as far as they go. The company offers online sites with more information, which I’ll share in a moment. But I didn’t see anything about snakes, falling through ceilings or wrestling with spouses over control of the thermostat, so some of the advice was incomplete.

Most of this I learned from personal experience. For instance:

• Duke suggests that we replace filters monthly at a minimum during the worst heat, since the system is running so often.

I suggest writing the date you change the filter on the cardboard frame. Then, when your spouse says it hasn’t been changed in months, and you argue that you just changed it last week, there’ll be clear proof.

• Be sure that coils on the exterior cooling unit are free of dirt, grass clippings and leaves. Also fire ants. And if you run across a snake skin, the former occupant might be around somewhere.

• On sunny days, close drapes, curtains and blinds to block direct heat from the sun. Plant shade trees at strategic spots or build roofs over decks and patios to shade large windows.

If you plant a fast-growing clump birch tree for shade, don’t plant it over the septic field. If you build a roof over a deck, don’t feed the cat on the deck. A possum might take up residence on your new roof, and climb down to join the cat at supper time.

• Have a pro check and repair any leaking ductwork, especially if the ducts are in a super-hot attic.

If your attic does overheat, add attic ventilation. There’s debate about the efficacy of powered attic vents, but they can make your home more comfortable. Do your research – and be sure to step only on the tops of ceiling joists.

If you fall through the drywall, you won’t save enough on your August power bill to cover the repair costs. (And never mind the embarrassment.)

For more information, visit or You might be eligible for a rebate for certain heating and cooling improvements.

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