With the hot summer weather we are experiencing in Middle Tennessee, we are looking to ways to keep our homes cool. I do not know about you but we have seen a sizable increase in our electric bill over last year and we have not made any change our home or to the temperatures in our home. Here are some tips to keep your home comfortable. Most are fairly inexpensive and make for an easy weekend project.
When the temperatures are expected to be high, consider keeping shades closed throughout the day. It is amazing the difference in heat gain when the sun is kept off the windows. In our home we have plantation blinds and I'm considering tinting the windows. Some of our neighbors have special screens on their windows that keep the solar gain to a minimum.
Fans Around the Home
Consider installing ceiling fans to keep the air moving, this helps make it much more comfortable, especially in bedrooms. In my home, I have several small fans that keep the air circulating. The movement of air makes you feel cooler than the actual air temperature.
Fans for the Season
I have a digital indoor and outdoor thermometer that I use to determine when the outside temperature has dropped below the inside temperature. During the cooler times of the year and when the temperature outside drops in the evening, we have a large box fan that is tightly fitted in a back window that exhausts the warmer interior air outside. This causes negative air pressure in the house, and when you open other windows in the home, you will get a nice cool breeze coming in. Similar to those old fashion whole house fans that use to be so popular..
Home Air Conditioners
If you have a central air conditioner, there are a few items you should consider to keep it running at peak efficiency.
The outside component of your unit is called the compressor. It houses the pump and the blower that cool the compressed gas that is then pumped into the home to cool the air inside. We see these units covered with landscaping debris (grass, weeds, bushes etc.) all the time.
When this happens the airflow is restricted and it has to work harder to cool your home. Always keep these units clear from obstructions, so they can easily cool the coils. Keep lawn clippings from blowing on them when trimming the grass. Sometimes dryer vents are located too close to AC units, plugging them with lint.
Read your manual on the best way to clean the unit. Some may be hosed off, ALWAYS TURN OFF THE POWER when cleaning them. Others require more complex cleaning. A dirty AC will waste a lot of energy. When in doubt have a professional clean it regularly, usually at least once a year.
These will help keep he attic spaces cool. Ideally the attic is the same temperature as the outside air. In the summer, I routinely enter attics that are as high at 145 degrees! Ventilation and insulation are both critical to keep this heat away from your living space. If your attic has less then 12 inches of insulation consider having more added. This will pay for itself in heating in winter and keep you much more comfortable in summer.
When re-roofing a home, consider using light colored coverings. They will reduce the heat from the sun. We always recommend silver coating un-coated torch down roofs. It will extend their life and help cool your home. Another saver are the addition of "Ridge Vents" on the roof. This is one of the most effective ways of venting an attic.
Use automatic thermostats with timers to control your cooling system. Be sure your air filters are clean, and your ductwork is tight, well insulated and free from leaks. We see leaking ductwork every day! Never turn you thermostat higher than 2-3 degrees than you normally keep it set at. It takes more energy to cool down a home than to maintain the temperature in the home. I use and really love the Nest Thermostat, it is a smart thermostat that allows for the tracking of your energy usage.
We recommend that you plant trees that will drop their leaves in winter on the south and west side of homes. This way you have shade in summer and the sun can naturally heat the home in winter. Remember to keep all plants trimmed away from the building.
"To increase the efficiency of your air-conditioning unit by up to 10 percent, plant trees and shrubs to shade the outside unit; place them at least 30 inches away so they don't block the vents on the compressor. For more tips on ways to use landscaping to increase the energy efficiency of your home, see the Department of Energy's landscaping advice." Consumer Reports
Scott Patterson has been a professional home inspector since 1995 and works out of the Greater Nashville TN area. You can contact him at his office 615-302-1113 or on his cell at 615-870-4162 via text or voice.