Now that summer is officially here, let’s get to those cooling tips I promised earlier. Some of the tips are simple things you can do yourself. Some are more involved are likely are best handled by a contractor.
- Keep the heat out! During the day, if it’s cooler inside than outside, keep windows shut. And keep window shades down to block out direct sunlight. Open the windows at night if it’s cooler outside than in. Solar shades can help. And the more ambitious project, new low-e windows with a low “solar heat gain coefficient” (SHGC) can block the heat from the sun.
- Ceiling fans (and other fans) help you stay comfortable—but only while you’re in the room. The fan motors actually generate heat, so turn them off when you’re not there.
- Use a bath fan vented to the outside to remove the heat and moisture created by showering. If you don’t have a bath fan, install one.
- Similarly, use a kitchen exhaust fan to remove heat and moisture created by cooking. This has the added benefit of removing pollutants, especially if you cook with gas.
- Use efficient lighting and appliances. Incandescent and halogen lights actually use most of their energy creating heat instead of light. Not only does this means you’re overpaying for lighting, but in the summer you’re creating a lot of unwanted heat in the rooms you’re trying to keep cool. Compact florescent light bulbs have improved greatly over the past several years. The humming, slow starts, and ghoulish colors of years past are gone. With lighting or appliances, look for ENERGY STAR models.
- Do you have a forced air heating or cooling system? If so, make sure to seal and insulate the ductwork in attics and crawl spaces. As much as 30% of the air you cool can escape outside through leaky ducts.
- Insulate and air-seal your attic. In the summer, temperatures in the attic often climb to more than 140o. Proper insulation can keep this heat from conducting down into your home, but first… Remember that your insulation only works if air isn’t moving through it. Seal around chimneys, flues, plumbing penetrations, and recessed lighting, for example. See my previous post Insulate to Stay Cool . (Tax credits may apply)
- If you have a central air-conditioner, keep it tuned up. If it’s more than 10 years old, consider replacing with a high-efficiency unit, one that at least qualifies for ENERGY STAR. If your buying a window air-conditioner or dehumidifier, look for the ENERGY STAR, too. (Tax credits may apply)
- Planting deciduous trees on the south and west sides of a house can help keep your home cool in the summer. In many parts of the country, maples, oaks, and birches are good trees to consider. Because they drop their leaves in the fall, they let sunlight through to help warm your house in the winter.
- To really find the trouble spots in your home, and to be sure that they’re addressed properly, get a comprehensive home assessment like those recommended in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. GreenHomes America can provide this, and GreenHomes trained and certified crews can even install your improvements.
And whether you do the work yourself or you have it done by a contractor, after you tighten the house you should have any combustion equipment like furnaces and water heaters tested to make sure they’re running safely and efficiently. GreenHomes does this testing on every project it completes.
Tags: $1500 tax credit, air conditioning, cooling tips, Efficiency First, energy audit, energy tax credit, energy-efficiency, green home, green homes, home economics, home energy, insulation, tax credit