Beat the Heat on a Budget: Frugal Tips for Preparing Your Home for Summer

This quick guide provides cost-effective tips for preparing your home for summer heat so you can reduce cooling costs and enhance comfort. Most of these tips can help homeowners and renters save.

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

Preparing Your Home for Summer photo

As temperatures climb, so can your energy bills. But with a few proactive steps, you can keep your home cool and comfortable without breaking the bank.

Here’s a quick guide to some cost-effective strategies to prepare your home for summer’s heat. Many of these tasks will also pay off during winter in keeping energy bills in check.

1. Service Your Cooling System

Start with a check-up for your air conditioning system. Hiring a professional is recommended. However, if money is tight, take steps to perform your own annual air conditioner inspection.

Regular maintenance can ensure your unit runs efficiently and extends its life. While there’s an upfront cost, the long-term savings on repairs and energy bills make it worthwhile. Plus, it’s better to know now rather than in the dead of summer that your unit needs a repair.

Also, remember to change filters regularly. Replacing or cleaning the air filters in your AC and vents every month can improve airflow and efficiency, reducing energy usage by up to 15%.

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2. Seal Leaks and Insulate

Hold a lit candle or incense stick near windows and doors to identify drafts. (Be cautious near curtains or other window coverings.) Apply weather stripping or caulking to seal any leaks, keeping cool air in and hot air out.

Adding insulation to attics, walls and crawl spaces can also be a game changer in maintaining your home’s temperature. This DIY insulation guide can help you reduce energy bills by hundreds per year.

3. Block Out the Sun

Upgrading to double-pane windows with low-emissivity (low-E) glass can drastically reduce heat gain during summer and heat loss in winter, but this may not be an option if you’re on a tight budget. Instead, consider installing reflective window film. This film can block a significant amount of solar radiation, keeping your home cooler without taxing your AC. It’s relatively inexpensive and can be a weekend DIY project.

Blackout blinds or curtains are also affordable solutions that can block intense sun rays and help keep your rooms cooler without extra energy use.

A bedroom in my home has one window that gets direct sunlight for more than half the day, and it gets unbelievably hot. We covered the window with a reflective film and bought a blackout curtain liner to hang behind the existing curtain. It’s made a significant difference in the room’s temperature (and comfort) on hot summer days.

4. Use Fans Wisely

If you have ceiling fans, use these maintenance tips to clean them and ensure they’re ready for summer use. Also, make sure they are set to rotate counter-clockwise, which pushes cool air down. (See: What’s That Little Switch On My Ceiling Fan? And How Can It Save Me Money?) This can make rooms feel several degrees cooler and allow you to set your thermostat higher, reducing your cooling system’s workload (and energy usage).

If you don’t have ceiling fans, consider investing in a few oscillating fans that you can move easily to any room where you are spending time. And don’t forget to use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans over the summer to pull the hot air that rises out of your home after cooking or showering.

5. Adjust Your Thermostat

If you have a programmable or smart thermostat, make sure you’ve optimized your settings for hot weather. Use these guidelines from to determine the best thermostat settings for balancing comfort and savings.

If you don’t have a programmable thermostat or smart home system and installing one is within your budget, you may want to consider it. These devices can help save up to 10% annually on cooling (and 8% on heating).

6. Plan Ahead To Cook Smart

On hot days, opt for meals that don’t require an oven. Consider using a microwave, toaster oven or outdoor grill to keep your kitchen cool. Also, use these summertime kitchen energy efficiency tips to avoid heating up your home.

Start Now Preparing Your Home for Summer

Preparing your home for summer doesn’t have to be costly, but it can save you money. By implementing these simple, frugal strategies, you can enjoy a cooler home while keeping your energy bills in check. Start early and tackle these tasks gradually so that when the summer heat peaks, your home—and your wallet—will be ready.

Reviewed April 2024

About the Author

Andrea Norris-McKnight took over as the editor of The Dollar Stretcher and After 50 Finances after working under the site founder and previous editor for almost 15 years. She has also written for,, and The Sacramento Bee.

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