How will you stay cool this summer?
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Jun. 5, 2013
The unofficial opening day of summer - Memorial Day - is behind us. We have had some warm weather, some warmer weather, and lots of rain. But you know the real heat is coming. So the question is hanging out there: How will you stay cool this summer?
Staying indoors in the air conditioning is an obvious answer, but it isn't an option for many folks, and, in fact, there isn't just one solution to the annual beat-the-heat problem. Not too many older homes in New England are equipped with central air conditioning. If yours is one of them, your main chore is to make certain it is in good running order. You can get that done by calling in your service professional for a checkup. But if you are fairly confident it has no problems, just make certain the filter is clean, and keep the unit free of obstacles - namely tall grass, weeds and bushes.
To be sure the cost of keeping cool in the house doesn't overheat your cash flow, check the settings on your thermostat to back off on demand for cool air while you are out of the house for long predictable periods (the work day). Keep the temperature set low enough to keep you comfortable, but high enough so the system is not continually cycling on and off. If you don't have a flexible programmable thermostat, this would be a good time to see the many options that are available.
One way to lose cool air and drive the cost of A/C up is leaky air ducts. Have a service person check for that, or do it yourself. You can seal air ducts that leak with aluminum tape. Strange though it may sound, “duct tape” is not the appropriate solution for leaky ducts.
For those of you who make it through the temperate New England summer with window A/C units, clean or replace the filters, and clean the fins on the inside coils using the brush tool of your vacuum. Straighten the fins with a fin comb, if they have gotten damaged. Check for gaps around the unit that may leak hot air in and let cool air escape. Seal those leaks with foam or caulk. Keep the doors closed to bedrooms and any rooms you are trying to keep cool. Also keep shades, blinds and/or drapes closed to keep the sun's rays from warming the air your A/C unit is trying to keep cool.
Reflective window film is a silent, passive and low-cost way to keep the heat outside. You do not have to cover all the windows in your house, just the ones that get the direct heat of the sun. Those would be the south-facing windows, and perhaps east- and west-facing as well.
Last year's storms prompted many homeowners to cut down trees around their houses. If those plans are on your to-do list, you might want to rethink the impact of that action. Trees that shade your home from the intense summer sun are helping to keep it cool, and they don’t charge anything for doing the job. It might be better to remove limbs that pose a threat to the house and electric service wires, leaving the rest of the branches to shade the house throughout the summer months.
Without air conditioning in your home, a whole-house fan is one of the “next best” options. Whole house fans are strategically mounted in the ceiling of the top floor, where they can suck hot air out of the interior, and expel it through gable vents or directly through a vent in the roof.
Ceiling fans can also be a good part of the overall cooling solution. They are relatively inexpensive, and installation can usually be accomplished by a competent do-it-yourself-er. If you already have ceiling fans in several rooms in your home, remember to reverse the direction of the fan to blow the air down, instead of up, as is typical in the winter.