Now that we’ve officially welcomed summer and things are heating up, combatting the warm weather requires all hands on deck. Staying cool during times of intense heat can be expensive, especially for homeowners who rely on central air conditioning to keep the house feeling comfortable. In fact, the US Department of Energy reports that heating and cooling can account for as much as 70% of the energy costs in the average home.
Not to worry! Improving your home’s efficiency with a few common HVAC repairs and home improvement projects can help you save money and stay cool, even during the warmest times of the year.
Improve Insulation in the Attic
Air leaks allow cooled air to escape to those uninhabited portions of your house and to the outside world. When this happens, your air conditioner has to work longer and harder to maintain the temperature set on your thermostat. Improving insulation, especially if you own an older home, can help keep the climate controlled air inside AND in the areas of your home where you actually need it.
Specifically, beefing up insulation in the attic can help keep cooled air in the lower levels of the house where people live. And improving insulation isn’t hard once you know how much more your home needs. Factors such as the age of the home, level of existing insulation and the local climate will all affect how much more insulation is needed.
Be sure to consult with a home efficiency expert in your area to find out what R-value is necessary to keep your home coo. Efficiency experts can also inspect old insulation and determine whether it is safe. Some old forms of insulation are made from asbestos and should only be handled by an expert.
Once that determination is made and you know how much insulation is needed, batts or insulation blankets are easy to roll out onto the floor of the attic. When installing new insulation, leave the old insulation in place unless the expert tells you to do otherwise. Never cover vents and never put the insulation up against the roof’s underside. This can restrict air flow and lead to mold problems.
Maintain Your HVAC System
An efficient and well-functioning HVAC system is also important for maintaining a cool home. Unfortunately, many homeowners do little to maintain their HVAC system throughout the year, which can lead to additional costs over a long period of time.
Clean Your A/C Condenser
Your air conditioner condenser sits outside where it battles the elements. Leaves, insects, grass and grime can build up inside the unit. And the dirtier the condenser becomes, the harder it is for your air conditioner to do its job.
Good air flow is necessary for your AC to release the hot air from the inside of your house - cleaning the condenser can help. To do this, cut the power to the unit, then use a screwdriver to remove the top from the air conditioner. Use a shop vacuum to remove debris like leaves and grit from inside the unit. If the tubes and parts are still grimy, clean it with coil cleaner then grab a hose and rinse with a strong jet of water.
Seal the Ducts
Check the exposed air ducts in your attic for leaks. Use metal tape to seal the ducts, and if they’re not insulated, wrap the ducts with insulation. This will help prevent the escape of cool air into the attic.
Program Your Thermostat
Take advantage of the programming features of your thermostat to regulate the temperature based on your schedule. An easy way to save money is to set the thermostat for lower temperatures when you’re home and need it to be cool, and raise the temperature when you’re not at home or inactive. For example, program a warmer temperature at night while you sleep and during the work day when you’re not around the house. The best part about this tip is that you can set your preferred temperatures and forget about it. Easy, right?
Install Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans help keep you from melting in the heat, even if the temperature on the thermostat is a few degrees warmer than you would normally prefer. If ceiling fans aren’t already part of your home, install them in large common areas like the kitchen and living room, as well as bedrooms. Though they don’t provide cooled air like the AC, ceiling fans keep air circulating, ultimately helping you stay comfortable and save money.
Seal Your HomeWeatherstripping doors and windows are another way to keep cold air inside. You can find weatherstripping at your local home improvement store. Install it in all cracks and crevices where air can leak out of the home. Be sure to check caulking around the windows at the same time, and if necessary, replacing the old caulk with new.
Coat the Windows
Lastly, updating your home’s windows to make them energy efficient can help lower energy bills. Low-e window coatings, for example, reduce the amount of heat transferred through the glass. This type of energy efficient window can be especially helpful in keeping the inside temperature at an even level throughout the house, even in rooms with southern or western exposure. Low-e windows are also beneficial regardless of what season it is. In warmer months, cold air stays in. In winter months, the heat stays in. Hiring an expert for installation is the best way to avoid bubbles in your low-e coatings and to ensure that the coating selected is the right one for your climate.
These minor DIY repairs and projects are great for new and experienced homeowners who just want to save money. With a little sweat equity and small improvements in your home, you can beat the heat and maintain energy efficiency throughout the summer.