Keeping cool during an insanely hot and muggy summer in Arlington, TX involves moving from air conditioned place to air conditioned place. At home you’re afraid to run the AC too much because you’re electric bill will be more than a fancy-car payment.
It need not be this way. Building-science principles, which no one tells you about in school or when you grow up and become an adult with a home, and common sense dictate a number of measures that any homeowner can take to increase comfort, decrease wasteful spending, and lead a better, more fulfilling life.
- That last one is on you.
This post examines the principles behind summer heat gain and actionable, affordable measures that you can take to reduce it without calling your Arlington air conditioning repair or service technician.
Heat Gain Basics
Your house is constantly absorbing heat, especially here in Arlington and Texas in general. It’s why, on those 100-plus degree days, your home doesn’t seem to cool less than 80 even though the thermostat may be set to 75.
Heat gain makes you uncomfortable. You fear the electricity bill. You can’t wait for fall.
Here’s what you need to know about heat gain:
Heat gain is divided into four categories — solar heat, internal heat, air leakage, and heat transmission.
- Solar heat hits the room and walls and comes in through the windows, accounting for about 50 percent of summer heat gain in your home.
- Internal heat gains come from lighting, stoves, ovens, showers, uninsulated hot water pipes, even human bodies, accounting for about 20 percent.
- Air leakage — that cool air that you pay lots of money for — leaks out and the outdoor air — that the sun has spent all day baking — leaks in, accounting for about 20 percent.
- Heat transmission — the process that occurs when hot outdoor air seeks equilibrium with cool indoor air, and thus moves through the building shell — accounts for about 10 percent.
If you want to stay cool during the awfully hot Arlington summer you want to snuff out the heat gain.
Here’s What To Do
Since most heat gain is solar, we’ll start here.
A lot of heat reaching you does so in the form of radiant heat through solar heat gains. Basically, your roof and walls sit there all day, every day absorbing heat. Your home is basically one big, steamy, Hot Pocket. It’s like there’s a hot sauna in your living room.
Your Arlington home is a giant radiator.
You can do a few things:
- Call your Arlington air conditioning repair or service tech for a systems check-up to improve the performance of your air conditioner.
- That service tech, or an energy expert (another option to call), will conduct an inspection of your home’s “energy envelope” and make recommendations to improve performance. Simple measures can be taken.
- On the radical (i.e., costly) end of things, you can always buy a new, more energy efficient system from your Arlington air conditioning contractor, which will help save upwards of 30 percent on your annual energy bills.
- Or you can prevent radiant heat by installing radiant barriers in your attic along the bottom of the rafters.
- You can prevent the sun from cooking your walls by planting trees, which will take time for a sapling to become an effective solar heat barrier but, in the long run, strategic landscaping can be very effective at keeping you comfortable and keeping your energy bills lower.
- Solar heat also enters the home through windows. While drawing curtains shut keeps out some of the heat, it also makes it dark inside. The window itself continues to absorb heat and act as a radiator. The most effective way to limit heat gain is by preventing the sun from hitting the windows in the first place. You can do this with shutters, awnings, or exterior sun screens.
Radiant barriers, trees, shutters, awnings, and exterior sun screens are readily available at Arlington-area home improvement centers like Lowe’s and Home Depot, even some higher-end hardware stores. If you prefer not to mess with installation there are many service companies, landscapers, and window specialists eager to do the work.
Air leakage can be addressed the same way it is in the winter, with some old-fashioned elbow grease and a free Saturday afternoon. The skillful use of caulk and a caulking gun in the attic, around door and window frames, and around the outside of the home can take a big bite out of air leakage heat gains.
A majority of air leaks will not be immediately visible, which is why it’s a good idea to call your Arlington air conditioning repair or service contractor or an energy auditor for an inspection. They have the cool tools like infrared cameras you don’t have to make the invisible visible.
Transmission is heat moving through your walls and the only way to stop it is to beef up your attic and walls with good, quality insulation. It’s just as important in the cooling season as it is in the heating season.
If you don’t know much about insulation, when your Arlington air conditioning repair or service technician comes to the house to check on the AC equipment, ask him to assess — with you present — the quality and condition of your existing insulation.
At a reasonable cost (it will vary due to a number of factors), you or your air conditioning service or repair contractor can add add insulation. Until then, take comfort in the fact that heat gain through transmission is only responsible or about 10 percent of summer heat gain.
Reducing internal heat gains barely requires getting your hands dirty.
- Insulating your water pipes and water heater is a quick DIY project that will bear fruit all year long.
- Get rid of incandescent light bulbs, which emit 90 percent or more of the electricity they consume as heat.
- Use the microwave instead of the stove.
- Plan your meals to cook out of the kitchen. Cook on a charcoal or gas grill outside rather than using the oven inside.