Snapshot

Focusing on your cooling comfort will make you feel better, andwill save money. Cooling is one of the biggest users ofelectricity, and inefficiencies can add up to big bills. Thisarticle provides tips to help cool your house down and a plan ofaction for home improvements.


 

Tips for Cooling Comfort

Are some rooms in your house too hot, even with the AC running?Are your electricity bills too high in the summer?  Here are sometips to help bring the heat and your bills, down.

AVOID THE HEAT FROM SUNLIGHT.  Known as solarheat gain, the sun's rays can heat your home. The biggest culpritare windows. Blocking the sunlight will cool your house. Use yourcurtains and window shades. Install exterior shades or awnings foreven more cooling help. Focus on the south and west windows toavoid afternoon heat. If your house heats up steadily during theday, take a look at your east-facing windows.

REDUCE INDOOR SOURCES OF HEAT. Appliances andlighting add heat to the home, increasing the workload of the airconditioner. Switch to CFLs or LEDs to cool your lightingsignificantly. Unplug little used appliances to avoid heat fromtheir motors. TVs and desktop computers can also give off a lot ofheat when in use. Look for ways to unplug items throughout yourhome--it can make a real difference.

MOVE THE AIR. We feel cooler when air gentlybreezes across our skin. So using a ceiling fan or portable roomfan while your AC is running will make you feel even cooler. Thenyou can reduce your AC use by raising the thermostat a few degrees.The combination of fans and AC will make you more comfortable andlower your electricity bill.

KEEP THE HUMIDITY DOWN. Your AC will work harderif the air is moist. Run your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans tovent water-filled air. This shortens the AC run time, and makes youmore comfortable. Drier heat is easier to tolerate, so help your ACsystem keep the humidity down.

 

Home Improvements to Keep It Cool

Here are some home improvements that will increase your coolingcomfort and lower your electricity bill. Consider these whenupgrading your air conditioner, as a combination will be far moreeffective than simply getting a new AC unit.

Start with this list and put in a new AC unit last. You will be able to downsize your AC and save energy for years tocome.


 NEED A NEW ROOF? Get a cool roof product. Coolroofs reflect back the sunlight, and significantly reduce the heatgain from the sun's rays. Cool siding products are also available.If you upgrade your roof or siding, you may need a much smaller airconditioner.

BLOCK THE SUNLIGHT.   Windows are a major sourceof heat gain in the summer. If you replace your windows, get thetype with coatings to block the sunlight. See our companion articleon windows, but very briefly look for a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient(SHGC) of 0.4 or less to get the most from your window upgrade.Less expensive, but still effective options are exterior shades orawnings. Interior shading can also work, but exterior shades betterblock the heat.

ADD INSULATION.  Attic and wall insulation canhelp to keep your cold air in and the hot air out. Attic insulationis one of the best lines of defense against summer heat.

ADD A RADIANT BARRIER.  A radiant barrier stopssunlight from heating the air in your attic, and this reduces theamount of hot air seeping into your home. A radiant barrier lookslike strong, flexibile aluminum foil and is stapled to the rafters,near the roof.

INSTALL A WHOLE HOUSE FAN.  If you live in aclimate with hot days and cool nights, you can take advantage ofthe temperature difference with a whole house fan. When the outsideair cools down, turn on the whole house fan to pump out the hot airin your home and bring in the cool. After 20 minutes, turn off thefan and enjoy your cool home.

SEAL YOUR LEAKS. During the summer, hot air comesinto your home through the air leaks. A round of air sealing willkeep the cool air in and reduce your electricity bill.

SEAL AND INSULATE YOUR DUCTS.  Particularly ifyour ducts run through the attic, leaks will allow hot air intoyour cooling system, making the AC unit work harder. Insulationkeeps the cold air inside the ducts away from the hot air in wallsand attics.

NOW, INSTALL A NEW AC!  Finally, havingconsidered all of these changes and upgrades, install a new ACunit. Don't do it first, do it last! You'll be able to takeadvantage of the other home improvements by downsizing the system.This saves money on the installation, and each summer.

If you do make some of the changes listed above and don't downsize,you may find that your AC is now oversized and will cycle on andoff frequently. Not only is this annoying, it increases yourelectricity costs and shortens the AC's service life.

Navigating your way through all of these factors can be confusing,have your HVAC professional do the calculations to keep yourcooling load and system size in balance. (These are known asManual-J calculations.)
 

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