Keep Your House Cooler in Summer – 5 Tips
Five Tips to Keep Your House Cooler In Summer
Some of our most read posts revolve around why air conditioners don’t keep up in the summer. However, sometimes the air conditioning system isn’t the problem at all! So, we decided to share 5 things you can do to keep your house cooler in summer.
All of these tips are not only relatively inexpensive, they all provide a pretty darn fast return on your investment!
Quite often homeowners find out their AC performs just fine after making the improvements in this article. In fact, frequently the blame lies with the house itself. Even when the AC unit is old and inefficient, these 5 things are guaranteed to keep your house cooler. Well, as long as they’re installed correctly using the right materials.
Understanding Why Your AC Can’t Keep Up
How I can guarantee these tips will keep your house cooler? First, I’ve been in the air conditioning & heating business for 30-years. My company, Magic Touch Mechanical in Mesa, AZ has been making homes more efficient & comfortable for 23 of those years. Often without laying a finger on the air conditioning unit itself!
Sometimes our projects consist of just HVAC installation or improvements, other times just fixing the house. Yet, other times it’s a combination of home efficiency improvements, duct improvements, and new HVAC systems. I’ve installed everything mentioned in this article to my own home. My home is 35-years old and performs better from an energy efficiency stand point than most brand new homes today.
The name of the game is reducing heat gain aka your homes “load”. I’ve written tons of articles on load calculations and how to know what size AC unit you need. So, I’m not going to go too deep in this article on that topic. However, it’s probably obvious to most that if you can reduce the heat entering your home in the first place – you can keep your house cooler! In other words, all of these tips will reduce your homes heat load so your AC can keep up.
Window Shade Screens / Solar Screens
Window shade screens, sometimes referred to as solar screens, are one of the most effective ways to reduce heat gain. They block the radiant heat before it has a chance to get in. Solar shade screens are especially helpful for older homes with single-pane or otherwise inefficient windows.
In a place like Phoenix, Arizona where the sun feels like it is only feet away, radiant heat is an AC killer. Homes with a lot of southern & western windows and exposure are particularly vulnerable to the sun’s energy. Windows on the east side of the home catch the morning sun – and the radiant heat along with it. As the sun tracks across the sky the onslaught of radiant heat penetrates the south and west side of your home.
The trick is to block that heat before it ever has a chance to enter the home. Window shade screens will do just that when properly installed. I personally have 90% UV Blocking shade screens on every window in my house. The difference they make is undoubtedly dramatic and you will be quite pleased immediately – I know I was.
Window shade screens are typically available in 80% UV blocking, or 90%. However they are available in many different screen and frame colors. That said, they are not all created equally. For example the screen material Magic Touch uses is guaranteed for 10-years (twice most), and our frames are twice as thick as the ones in the box stores.
PRO TIP: Although it sounds backwards, darker colored screens are easier to see out through than lighter colors. This has to do with the way our brains perceive light – or some scientific jargon above my pay grade!
Will Window Shade Screens Make My Home Darker?
Being a BPI Certified Home Energy Auditor myself, it’s probably no surprise my home is very efficient. However, I keep my home very cool (between 72 & 74 degrees in the summer). I’m able to do that and still have very low utility bills because I’ve taken all the steps mentioned in this article.
When I wanted to install window shade screens, my wife was very concerned they’d make the house too dark. In fact, the opposite has happened – let me explain:
As a result of having the shade screens installed, I no longer close the blinds during the day to block the heat. Yes, shade screens do in fact make your home darker inside. However, if all of your blinds are open (because you don’t have to worry about the heat) the result is opposite. Now instead of going behind my wife, closing blinds to keep the house cool, we keep them open all day (when we’re home)!
Honeycomb Blinds aka Cellular Shades
For those who have windows where solar shade screens are not a viable option, honeycomb blinds may be your answer. They’re hardly as effective as window shade screens which block the radiant heat before it enters, but an alternative.
Traditional slotted blinds, vertical blinds, and curtains are more for privacy than they are for energy savings. None of them help that much to keep your home cooler in the summer. However, honeycomb blinds are one of the most effective interior window coverings for this purpose.
I personally have both solar shade screens outside and honeycomb blinds inside. When I’m going to the out of the house all day, I keep my blinds completely closed. The combination of the two allow me to keep my AC set very low while still keeping my electric bills at bay.
Not all honeycomb blinds are created equally. I recommend either Levelor or the slightly less expensive option, Bali. Either way prepare to spend some dough, as honeycomb blinds are significantly more expensive than solar window shade screens. I chose Bali’s Day & Night blinds which allow me to filter more or less light through as needed.
Awnings / Umbrellas
You may be noticing a trend here – windows & shade! My first three tips are all centered around blocking radiant heat entering your home through your windows. Well, if you want to keep your house cooler in summer, you have to block the heats easiest path inside. Note that I’m not talking about air leakage or infiltration. Believe it or not, you can see dramatic results even with old single-pane windows simply by blocking radiant heat.
While the most expensive of the 5-tips; installing awnings over windows can help reduce heat gain significantly. In essence you’re shading your windows.
A cheaper work-around that serves the same purpose are some strategically placed patio umbrellas. While this would look silly in front of your home, it can work in the backyard. Unfortunately, because of our windy summers and monsoon storms this can be a hassle and hard to maintain. Not to mention umbrellas can’t help your second story windows.
Attic Insulation Will Help Keep Your House Cooler In Summer
Enough with windows! Let’s talk about another area you need to address to keep your home cool in summer – your attic. If you think the sun penetrates your windows all day, think about how your roof feels! Us HVAC technicians know to wear leather gloves when climbing on your roof because we’ve all burned our hands before.
Unlike your windows there’s no shade for most rooftops in Phoenix. The sun pounds on your home’s roof all day and quickly heats your attic 30-40 degrees hotter than it is outside. Yes, on a 110-degree summer day, your attic is around 150-degrees! You need to make sure that 150 degree heat isn’t entering your home too quickly. While most of us learned in school that heat rises, what they may not have taught you is heat moves to cold. Not only does heat move to cold, the greater the temperature difference, the faster it moves. Consider how fast that heat enters your home when it’s 150 degrees in the attic and half that in your home!
If you want to keep your house cooler in summer, you have to have good attic insulation. Most people are shocked to find out how poorly their attic is insulated – even in newer homes. Not only must there be a good amount of insulation, it has to be installed properly.
You might be thinking, “how hard is it to install insulation properly?” Well, it’s not really. Unfortunately, builders, cheap labor from large insulation companies, and do-it-yourselfers get it wrong a lot more than you’d think. When a Magic Touch Mechanical energy auditor shows up with an infrared camera and shows clients just how poorly their insulation is performing many are shocked.
Many Homes Need Better Attic Insulation
We’ve conducted thousands of home energy audits throughout Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, and Phoenix since the 1990’s. What we’ve found is about 50% of homes we inspect have serious attic insulation deficiencies. Another 25% have mid to minor insulation problems! Yes, 3 out of 4 homes we inspect have less than acceptable attic insulation. I won’t mention the builder, but there’s an entire development with hundreds of homes in the valley with completely ineffective insulation. These homes are new! If you’re wondering how that got passed the inspectors – so are we!
Keep Your House Cooler In Summer With Radiant Barrier
I recently posted an update on a case study about the installation of radiant barrier in Magic Touch’s Mesa office: Will Radiant Barrier Keep My Home Cooler? Radiant barriers are an extremely effective way to help keep your house cool in summer.
However, they’re not a viable option in other parts of the country as they are here in the Arizona desert. I also only recommend radiant barrier for homes that are already efficient with regards to other common deficiencies.
I.E. If your home has leaky ducts, an old air conditioning system, poor attic insulation, etc., address those problems first. If you know your home is in good shape already in those areas: Radiant barriers are the icing on the cake and a very worthwhile investment. They’ll go a long way in keeping your house cool in summer.
Energy Efficient Homes & Air Conditioning Mesa, AZ & Surrounding Cities
If you’re looking for 5-Star air conditioning service or ways to make your home comfortable and efficient, contact Magic Touch Mechanical today. We’re not just an AC company, an insulation company, a shade screen company or an energy audit company…we’re a customer service company!
We guarantee our work for life and: LOWER BILLS. IMPROVED COMFORT. CLEANER AIR.