Plan Your Project to Fix Your Hot and Sticky Home
For homes that contain hot and sticky rooms, focus on minimizing pathways where the heat from outside enters your home. At the same time, eliminate any gaps, cracks or holes in which warm, humid air leak into your home. The following outline helps those homeowners making their home more comfortable in the summer. The outline provides step-by-step solutions for improving hot, sticky homes:
- As a first step, seal as many connections, gaps, holes and cracks between the air in your home and the outside air. Otherwise, the cool, conditioned air in our homes escapes through these holes to the outside. This cool, conditioned air, lost to the outside, causes an equal amount of hot, humid outside air to enter the home. The home equalizes pressure between the inside and outside air. Losing the cool, conditioned air costs money. Plus, the replacement hot, humid air makes the home uncomfortable. SEAL UP YOUR HOME!
- After air sealing as much as possible, the increase the insulation in your home. Add or properly install insulation in spots without any or only installed to a minimum thickness (start in the attic). In addition to attic insulation, many homes need insulation installed in exterior walls, floors over unheated spaces and kneewalls. Regardless of the location in your home, insulation should always be installed to be continuous and to the proper thickness (and ALWAYS after air sealing first). INSULATE WHERE NEEDED!
- Make sure you remove moisture from your home at its source. For example, use exhaust fans during showers and, if possible, when cooking. It is critically important to verify if your exhaust fans are connected to an exhaust vent (or hose) that terminates outside of your home. Exhaust ducts that terminate in the attic lead to moisture damage, mildew and eventually mold growth. USE EXHAUST FANS TO ELIMINATE MOISTURE!
- Next, the windows in your home ideally minimize the sun’s energy radiating through them during the warmer months of the year. Windows that allow more heat gain result in rooms overheating. Plus, overheating rooms means your air conditioning system works harder (using more energy). It also means rooms on the south and west exposures of your home likely overheat and become very uncomfortable. Window shading devices such as retractable awnings or even well-planned deciduous trees help minimize solar heat gain as well. Additionally, many solar films and shading devices help lessen solar heat gain into your home. For new windows, GreenHomes recommends a window with a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) of less than .25 in hot, southern climates. These windows block more of the sun’s energy before it comes into your house. As a result, this step reduces the amount of cooling needed from your air conditioner. REDUCE HEAT GAIN THROUGH WINDOWS!
- In addition to solar heat coming through the windows themselves, many widows emit excessive air leakage around the window unit (between the window itself and the rough opening of the house framing). This gap around windows is almost always very leaky. Plus, the gap provides a source for warm, humid air to enter or exit the home in the summertime. SEAL AROUND WINDOWS!
- Seal leaky air ducts, which helps minimize air leaks. Especially when the duct leaks are outside of the conditioned space. Since ductwork is pressurized (and depressurized) by the central air conditioner or heat pump fan, duct leaks are exaggerated and can significantly impact poor comfort conditions in the home. SEAL THE DUCTS!
- New residential central air conditioners are much more efficient today than they were just 5 or 10 years ago. Central air conditioners and heat pumps are rated for cooling efficiency in terms of SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. A central air conditioner that operates at 15 SEER removes 15 BTU’s for each watt of electricity consumed vs a 10 SEER central air conditioner that removes 10 BTU’s for each watt of electricity consumed. To minimize hot, humid conditions in homes, GreenHomes recommends central cooling systems have a 15 SEER efficiency rating or higher. In addition to high-efficiency systems, central air conditioning systems that air sized much too large for the home can cool the house very quickly without adequately dehumidifying the air. The result is a home that is cool but humid. It is very important to properly size central air conditioning systems so your home is cooled and the humidity is removed from the home in hot, humid summertime conditions. INSTALL PROPERLY SIZED, EFFICIENT AIR CONDITIONING!
- Lastly, and only when necessary, consider high-efficiency dehumidification systems. Dehumidifiers add heat to the space and can be expensive to run continuously. However, if all other efficiency measures have been completed (such as air sealing the home and right-sizing your air conditioning system) and the humidity levels are still high in your home, dehumidification may be necessary. To minimize the cost of dehumidification, make sure your dehumidifier is ENERGY Star Labeled. DEHUMIDIFY WHEN NECESSARY!
Improving home comfort in the summer presents a challenge. However, fixing hot and sticky homes remains doable. To help homeowners determine the best solution for their home, GreenHomes recommends getting a quality energy audit. When done properly, an energy audit pinpoints the true sources of comfort problems and energy waste in your home such as excessive air leaks or insufficient insulation levels. The energy audit creates a roadmap or plan for creating a more comfortable, energy efficient home.
Common Questions about Energy Audits by Homeowners:
- What does an energy audit include?
- Why is a quality energy audit a smart place to start?
- What is my Role as the Homeowner during an Energy Audit?
- What does an energy audit cost?
- Is a Free Energy Audit Worth doing?
- What are 10 questions I should ask an energy auditor before I hire them?
- What information should I learn from my energy audit?
- How do I find a qualified energy auditor?
Remember, a high-quality home energy audit provides a critical step for determining your project for creating a more comfortable home. However, the energy audit by itself doesn’t improve the conditions of the home at all. Only installing the prioritized recommendations lowers your energy costs and feels more comfortable in your home.