A dozen tips for summer-proofing your home
Take steps now to cool down your house before the real heat arrives. These tips can help you save money that instead can go toward summer fun.
Install radiant barrier — Energy consultant Michael Bluejay suggests adding a layer of aluminum foil-type material or special paint to the rafters under the roof. This will reflect heat from the sun back out through the roof. Note that a radiant barrier should not completely block air flow, so leave cutouts at the end of the barrier. Also, while a barrier is good in the summer, it will reduce the amount of heat gain in the attic in winter. A barrier can reduce energy use by 3 to 8 percent.
Ventilate the attic — Check to see if you have enough soffit vents and attic vents. If not, add more. These vents will release some of the hot air that can accumulate in the attic, as much as 150 degrees for dark-shingled houses. The vents can knock the temperature below 110 degrees and prevent moisture buildup. Keep the vents clear of insulation.
Add window fans — Window fans are another means of ventilating your house. The U.S. Department of Energy says to install them in windows facing away from the prevailing wind and exhausting hot air from your home. To cool as much of your home as possible, tightly close windows near the fan and open windows in rooms far from the fan, preferably on the windward side of your home. Windows located near cooler, shaded outdoor areas provide the best intake air.
Add a ceiling fan — If you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees and still be comfortable.
Upgrade your door — Install a storm door that allows you to use its screen feature on cool evenings and turn off the air conditioning. If you can’t afford an upgrade, make sure doors and windows close and seal tightly.
Shade your windows — Sunny windows make air conditioners work extra hard. In fact, direct sunlight can raise heat in a house 10 to 20 degrees. To keep out the sun, install drapes, blinds, exterior shades and other window coverings. Applying solar control window films to existing glass is another effective method to reduce solar light and heat.
Seal your ducts — Those out-of-sight ducts can leak like sieves and account for 25 percent of your cooling costs. Follow do-it-yourself tips at www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_improvement.hm_improvement_ducts.
First seal ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement or garage. Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap them in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Next, look to seal any other ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled part of the house. Note that if you’re installing a new central air conditioner, your ducts must be inspected anyway.
Seal out the hot air — Weatherstrip, caulk and insulate to keep the hot air out. The same winter insulation rules apply to summer insulation. Look for “weatherization” at www.doe.gov for tips on sealing and insulating your home. Here are the most important areas to insulate:
- Ceilings and finished attic walls
- Wall to unheated garage
- Crawl spaces
- All exterior walls, including basements
- Under floors and slabs
- Cathedral ceilings
- Around air conditioning ducts in unconditioned spaces
Have your AC ready to go — Change filters. Clean and shade your condensing unit and remove dead leaves and grass that could block air flow. Ask your heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor about installing dampers to restrict the flow of cooled air to rooms you rarely use and talk with the contractor about whether closing doors or registers in those rooms will affect your system’s efficiency.
Reverse fan blades — Reverse the blades on your ceiling fan so they turn counterclockwise and blow air downward.
Repaint your house lighter — If your house has a dark-colored exterior, paint it lighter to reflect more of the sun’s radiant energy. A dark color absorbs 70 to 80 percent of light rays.
Redo your roof — If it’s the year to re-shingle, go with light-colored ones, which like painting your house light, will reflect more solar heat. White or light shingles will save 10 to 20 percent in cooling costs. Even better, go with metal shingles or a metal roof. Metal will last longer than asphalt shingles and will reflect more than asphalt.