August 2, 2018
The earth’s average annual temperature continues to rise, and the last two years have been the warmest in recorded history. Hotter temps are becoming a fact of life for everyone. If the warming trend continues, homeowners will need to find ways to deal with hotter weather, not only so that they can remain comfortable, but so that they can counter the rising costs of using an air conditioner.
There are solutions. A new air conditioning unit could save money on energy bills, and a new programmable thermostat can give homeowners more control over cooling costs as well. These improvements might seem expensive at first, but air conditioning upgrades and new thermostats may qualify for property assessed clean energy financing (PACE) programs. These programs help homeowners increase energy efficiency by providing financing for the upfront costs of the upgrades.
If you want to heat-proof your house this year, there are other steps to take. Some of these ideas, such as installing a cool roof, improving insulation, replacing windows, and adding shading, may qualify for PACE financing as well.
Here’s a closer look at these and other options that will help you heat-proof your house.
Solar heat gain can be a major strain on your air conditioner. Any roofer will tell you that roof shingles can be hot to the touch. The EPA agrees, saying that the temperature of roof surfaces can be 50-90°F higher than the air temperature.
There are a couple of ways to keep this heat from transferring from the roof into your house. The first option is to install a cool roof. Cool roofs come in several different forms. The Department of Energy says that they can be made from a special type of reflective paint, a single sheet-like covering, or special heat-proof tiles or shingles. Regardless of the material, the goal of a cool roof is to reflect the sun away from the home so that it doesn’t cause the roof to heat up and cause solar heat gain. Will cool roofing help heat-proof your house? Energy.gov claims that when correctly installed, cool roofing can lower the surface temperature by 50°F.
A green roof, which is basically a built-in rooftop garden, can provide a layer of insulation that will help fight solar heat gain. Green roofs may be more expensive than other cool roof options, but they come with extra advantages. A green roof can help with stormwater management and runoff, and it can provide an extra layer of insulation year-round. You should weigh the costs of a green roof versus the benefits that it provides beyond heat-proofing.
Solar gain can bring heat through your windows, too. 76 percent of the sunlight that falls on a standard window passes through to the interior as heat. To heat-proof your house, you need to find a way to block this sunlight. Luckily, there are lots of methods for doing this. Interior shades, blinds and curtains (with plastic lining or quilting) can block sunlight. Unfortunately, they also block natural light from getting in the house. Awnings can provide shade without blocking all the light from the inside of the house. Awnings, especially over south and west-facing windows, can reduce cooling costs by 26-33 percent, depending on the climate.
Strategically-planted trees may also provide shade. In temperate climates, when the leaves fall, the tree will allow the sun to shine through, creating a desired solar heat gain effect during the cold winter.
Shutters can reduce direct sunlight as well. These do block natural light when closed, but they have one important added benefit: they can protect your windows if you live in an area with hurricanes, tornados, or severe thunderstorms.
Window film or specially-glazed windows that reflect sunlight may also help block UV rays. Because it cannot be removed easily, the film may block beneficial solar gain during the winter. If you’re in need of new windows, you may want to consider glazed windows that reflect light without any additional attachments.
Insulation is usually associated with cold weather, but it can also help heat-proof your house in the summertime. Insulation keeps the heat inside during the winter, but the same barrier will keep warmth outside during the summer. It’s a simple equation: the less heat that makes it inside, the less you’ll have to run your air conditioner. The most cost-effective way to add insulation, especially in older houses, is to have a professional inject foam insulation into the walls.
Are fans a good alternative to air conditioners? The fact is, fans won’t help heat-proof your house. They may create a comforting wind-chill effect, but they actually only move air around – they don’t cool it. When it’s cooler outside (at night), running a window fan for ventilation can be beneficial. Ceiling fans, on the other hand, can’t ventilate, but they can be helpful in moving conditioned air around your home.
With a combination of the simple fixes and larger home improvements mentioned above (and PACE financing programs to help with the cost), you can heat-proof your house so that it can better handle the warmer temperatures caused by climate change.