This is a guest post courtesy of Matt Doyle, the Vice President and Co-founder of Excel Builders.
Being stuck inside a house that’s too hot can be a frustrating experience. Even if you have an air conditioner, you may have sky-high energy bills running it as much as possible just so you can be comfortable inside your home. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are a number of home improvement projects you can undertake during the fall that will help your home feel cooler during even the hottest periods of the summer. Here are five projects that we think work the best.
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Since windows let sunlight into your home, they represent one of the most significant sources of heat during the summer. One of the best and easiest ways to keep your home cooler is to keep your windows covered to block at least some of the sunlight, especially when the sun is shining directly on them. There are a variety of ways you can do this:
- Awnings — material that overhangs the exterior of your home above the window to reduce direct sunlight from reaching it
- Shutters — interior or exterior cover for a window that can be swung closed over the window and usually have some kind of adjustable and angled slats to let in some indirect light
- Shades — usually some kind of cloth that can be rolled up or down to let in or block sunlight
- Blinds — similar to shades but have some kind of adjustable portion to let in some sunlight if desired
- Curtains or drapes — similar to shades but tend to have thicker material to more completely block sunlight, and have different ways of being moved over or away from the window
The results for these types of window coverings speak for themselves according to tests done by Consumer Reports into how much they reduce heat gain — awnings by 65 to 77%, curtains or drapes by 33%.
It also helps to have a tree or shrubbery that partially blocks sunlight during the summer, but allows sunlight through in the winter when the leaves have fallen off when you may want the heat.
One of the best but more expensive ways to keep your home cool is by installing a “cool roof” that helps reflect sunlight and the heat it generates away from your home.
The difference compared to your average roof is pretty striking — according to the Department of Energy, your average roof can get as hot as 150°F while under direct sunlight in the summer, while a cool roof in the same conditions can stay as cool as 90°F. That makes a huge difference for how cool the interior of your home will feel during even the hottest days of the year.
There are multiple types of roofing that can qualify as a Cool Roof, using a variety of materials and designs but typically use some kind of paint, covering, tiles or shingles that are very reflective. Shingles and tiles, for example, can be made with a special coating to help them better reflect the heat from sunlight. You can also get metal roofing with special paint or coating that will also qualify as a Cool Roof.
The cost to install a cool roof will vary depending on exactly where you live, but you can expect the necessary materials to be between $0.75 and $3.00 per square foot. While it does tend to cost more to install a cool roof compared to a traditional one, a cool roof will help you cut down on your energy bill to balance that out.
In addition, you don’t necessarily need to completely re-do your roof either — you can have some roofing retrofitted with covering or paint to still keep your home cooler.
If you have an air-conditioned home, the best way to keep it cool in the summer without using too much energy is by optimizing the airflow within your home.
You might have heard that it’s a good idea to shut the doors and air vents to any rooms you aren’t using so your air conditioning can work more efficiently and effectively in the rest of your home. However, that does not help you to either save energy or make your home cooler.
When you close the vents and doors, the air trapped inside becomes highly pressurized due to the lack of circulation. That air will become warmer and stagnant due to lack of circulation, and the pressure will force that air through the gaps in your door.
Meanwhile, the air in the rest of your home becomes depressurized, which means your AC unit will pull more air from outside, which will be the hot summer air. The end result is your AC needs to work more, not less, and your home not feeling any cooler at all. So it’s better to keep your doors and vents open throughout your house.
That’s a good example of why poor air flow can make your home feel warmer, which is also why you should look into cleaning your air vents and ducts. With clogged or dirty vents and ducts, the air is not evenly distributed through your home. That will lead to some rooms or areas of your home feel hotter than others.
It will also lead to poor air flow and circulation, making your home as a whole feel warmer. So if you haven’t cleaned your ducts or vents in a while, doing so is a good way to make your home feel cooler.
Another way to make your home feel cooler is by optimizing the air circulation and flow — air that doesn’t move around will come to feel more stagnant, which makes the air feel hotter and more humid. There are a few ways to help improve the ventilation and circulation of air in your home to help avoid that:
- Install ceiling fans — run them counter-clockwise in the summer to push cooler air down into the room to create a wind chill effect so the room feels cooler
- Run exhaust fans — you probably have some in your kitchen and bathroom(s), which will pull air and moisture from inside your home and put it outside to help reduce humidity in your home
- Use window fans — place them by an open window that’s not facing the sun so it pulls fresh, cooler air into your home. Works well when combined with exhaust fans pushing humid air out of your home.
- Install an attic vent — prevents hot air from being trapped in your attic and seeping into your home, helps improve overall ventilation
If you optimize the air flow and circulation in your home, you may even have stretches where you do not need your air conditioning to run at all. It constantly pushes out stagnant, humid air outside and pulls fresh air inside — even if the air pulled from outside is warmer, the circulation created by your fans helps cool it down to feel like a nice breeze.
Most people do not realize how much your home’s lighting can make parts of your home feel hot. We’ve had incandescent light bulbs since Thomas Edison first invented them in the 1800’s, but only recently has anyone improved on them with LED or CFL lighting.
There are numerous problems with incandescent bulbs due to their inefficient design, but one of them has to do with the fact that they generate a lot of energy to make the bulbs bright enough. A byproduct of all that energy is that the bulbs also generate a lot of heat waste.
Incandescent bulbs work by running electricity through the filaments. The atoms in the filament become heated, which is what produces light. However, to generate enough light the filament needs to be heated to 4,000 degrees—that means if you have incandescent light bulbs in your home, you are basically running miniature furnaces whenever they are turned on.
Replacing them with more efficient LED or CFL bulbs not only helps save you money on your energy bill but will also prevent you from feeling too hot when you are reading next to a lamp.
About the Author
Matt Doyle is the Vice-President and Co-Founder of Excel Builders, a custom home building company serving Delaware and Maryland. The company specializes in ICF and custom-built, energy efficient homes. Matt grew up in the construction industry and he has a Bachelor of Science degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Alabama. He also has an extensive background in internet marketing and has worked with some well-known international companies such as Best Western, McGraw Hill Construction, Sharp, and Canon.