Plan Your Project to Fix Your Hot and Sticky Home
For homes that have rooms that are hot and sticky in the summer, homeowners should strive to minimize pathways in which heat from the outside can enter your home. At the same time, you should eliminate any gaps, cracks or holes in which warm, humid air can leak into your home. The following outline will help those trying to make their home more comfortable in the summer by stepping through the possible solutions for improving hot, sticky homes:
- As a first step, homeowners should try to 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 will escape through these holes and will be lost to the outside. This cool, conditioned air, lost to the outside, will further cause an equal amount of hot, humid outside air to enter the home from outside as the home equalizes pressure. Losing the cool, conditioned air costs you money and the replacement hot, humid air makes the home uncomfortable. SEAL UP YOUR HOME!
- After air sealing as much as possible, the insulation in your home should be increased wherever it is missing, poorly installed or installed to a minimum thickness (usually the attic is the best place to start). 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 are removing moisture from your home at its source by using 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 will always lead to moisture damage, mildew and eventually mold growth. USE EXHAUST FANS TO ELIMINATE MOISTURE!
- Next, the windows in your home should minimize the sun’s energy radiating through them during the warmer months of the year. Windows that allow more heat gain will result in rooms overheating and your air conditioning system working harder (using more energy). It also means rooms on the south and west exposures of your home will likely overheat and become very uncomfortable. Window shading devices such as retractable awnings or even well-planned deciduous trees can help minimize solar heat gain to homes. There are also many solar films and shading devices on the market designed to lesson 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 are designed to block more of the sun’s energy before it comes into your house reducing 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 have 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 and a source for warm, humid air to enter or exit the home in the summertime. SEAL AROUND WINDOWS!
- Leaky ducts should be sealed to 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, high-efficiency dehumidification systems can be used. 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!
As you can see, improving the comfort of homes during the summer can be challenging. To help the homeowner determine the best solution for their home, GreenHomes recommends getting a quality energy audit. When done properly, an energy audit will pinpoint the true sources of comfort problems and energy waste in your home such as excessive air leaks or insufficient insulation levels. The energy audit will be your roadmap or plan for creating a more comfortable, energy efficient home.
Common Questions about Energy Audits by Homeowners:
- Why is a quality energy audit a smart place to start?
- What does an energy audit include?
- 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 is my Role as the Homeowner during an Energy Audit?
- What information should I learn from my energy audit?
- How do I find a qualified energy auditor?
Remember, a high-quality Home Energy Audit will be 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 when actually install the prioritized recommendations will you lower your heating cooling costs and feel more comfortable in your home.