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‘Lighter’ décor can make home feel cooler

“We shall never be content until each man makes his own weather and keeps it to himself.” Jerome K. Jerome (1858-1927), English writer and humorist, “On The Weather,” The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1889)

Staying cool, looking good and saving money.

As the temps heat up, more than likely your utility bills will climb up also. Every year around this time, Las Vegans and others who live in hot climes, dread going to the mailbox because … the utility bill might be there! Horrors.

I remember the shock of it all when I first moved here. And over the years, I have learned a few tips here and there to help lower my bills and, at the same time, keep comfortable in my space. I mean, really, who wants to give up style to be comfortable?

From a design standpoint, you don’t have to sacrifice good looks for comfort. Just ask any contemporary design fan. The summer is when contemporary design really shines.

Large, open, white spaces remain cool in any climate. Minimalist furnishings, bare floors and other touches, such as concrete countertops or other solid surfaces, make spaces seem cooler. This is a complaint of some about contemporary design. But as modern design fans know, when done right, it’s perfect in any climate.

If, however, you live in a more traditional space, there are a lot of easy fixes to make you feel cooler.

Switch out your heavy carpets for sisal or some other natural material rugs. You could dispense with the rugs altogether, but sometimes their absence makes a room look bare.

Removing some accessories will also “lighten” the load. A more open room will seem lighter and cooler. Bare table tops with one well-chosen accessory will still look good, but not crowded.

Heavy window treatments also can be switched out for lighter fabrics. But, don’t leave your windows bare. Heat and light can ruin your furnishings; and keeping your windows covered will shut out some of the heat.

Keep your lamps and dimmers on low so less heat will be generated from the light sources.

Keeping your ceiling fans on along with your air conditioner will help to circulate the air and make rooms seem cooler.

These easy tips can feed your inner designer persona, but there are other steps you can take to feed your budget-minded one.

So let’s talk about money.

To eliminate the shock of my utility bills in the summer, I signed up for balanced payments with the utility company. If you’ve been in your home for at least a year, the utility will average your bills for that year, and then you pay the same amount each month. Some folks don’t like it because they are paying more in the winter than they would without the balanced payments. But, there’s no more spikes in the summer.

The utility company has also offered a few more easy tips for the summer months. You can find more at www.nvenergy.com.

No-cost tips

n Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Don’t forget your computer. Most new computers have sleep settings.

n Set the thermostat to 78-80 degrees when home and 5-10 degrees warmer at night or when you’re not home.

n Close blinds and drapes during the day to keep heat out.

n Also, use your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, and cook as late in the evening as possible.

n Barbecue outdoors when practical, keeping in mind the heat and effect of sun on your body. Reducing the heat coming into your home from any source, such as cooking, will reduce the load on your air conditioning.

n Set your water heater to 120 degrees.

n Vacuum your refrigerator coils (underneath and in the back) and don’t obstruct the coils. They need air space to work. (Who knew?)

n Keep your freezer as full as possible. You can place containers or plastic bottles filled with water in the empty spaces.

n Make sure food is cool and covered before it goes into the refrigerator.

n Run full loads in your washer and dryer, and use “solar drying” (clotheslines).

n Use energy saver option on your dishwasher, allowing dishes to air dry.

n Unplug your televisions/VCRs when you’re on vacation. Most new sets draw power even when they’re turned off.

n Keep lights and lighting fixtures clean, especially if you’re reducing the number of lights you use.

n If your dishwasher has a filter, keep it clean.

n Clean the reflectors underneath the burners on stovetops.

Low-cost tips

NV Energy goes on to say there are plenty of low-cost, easy-to-do projects or steps you can do to save another 10 to 25 percent on your energy bill.

n Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones. This will typically save $1 per bulb changed out (for bulbs running 4-6 hours per day) and reduce heat in your home. Regular bulbs use most of the electricity to generate heat so use care when changing bulbs.

n Install electrical outlet and switch plate insulation.

n Fix leaky faucets and install low-flow showerheads.

n Replace furnace and air conditioner filters. Spray the filters with a light coating of lemon furniture polish or vegetable oil cooking spray to help trap dirt in the filter.

n Check the seals on your refrigerator and freezer.

n Replace normal thermostats with programmable thermostats.

When the temps hit 100-plus degrees this week, I certainly began to think about comfort and money, and I’m sure most of you did as well. I hope these easy fixes will help to make your summer cooler and help to save a few bucks along the way.

Carolyn Muse Grant is a founder and immediate past president of the Architectural & Decorative Arts Society, as well as an interior design consultant/stylist specializing in home staging. Send questions to creativemuse@cox.net.

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