Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beyond the open window

So, yesterday we discussed the benefits of opening windows. I want to continue on that vein and talk about proper ventilation and cooling in the home now that the warmer weather is quickly approaching.

Keeping your humidity levels in check this summer will help keep your home cooler. One way to do this is through the use of exhaust fans, both in the bathroom and in the kitchen. But don't forget to turn off the fans as soon as the air is cleared of the humidity caused by showering and cooking. The reason? Well, if your home is air conditioned (or if the furnace is running in the winter), an exhaust fan will not only filter out the humidity, but it will also suck out the conditioned air, ultimately costing you money. Make sense?

Don't forget to turn off the humidifier on your furnace for the warmer months! And if you live in an area with a lot of humidity, get yourself an Energy Star dehumidifier and run it as needed.

When attics don't have proper ventilation, expect some moisture problems in your home during the summer months. If you open up the entry to your attic and heat pours out, you have a problem. Having enough vents is the issue. How do you know? Well, it'll take some calculations to determine what's needed. Basically, your house needs at least one square foot of vent openings per every 300 square feet of floor space in your attic. If your attic falls short of this, it's time to contact a contractor for some advice.

How to properly cool your house is an issue, especially if you're concerned about the cost and about the environment. As a voice-over talent who records from home, I am faced with this issue as the temperature rises. I basically need to run the central air so that I can breathe when I'm holed up in a room with windows and doors shut. Fans are too noisy, and the neighborhood kids, garbage trucks, fire sirens and songbirds make it impossible for me to keep the windows open while I'm recording.

But most of you are not faced with my issues, so you have a few more options. Here are some ways to make summer a bit more comfortable in your home this year:
  • Shade your home -- pull down the blinds, close the curtains and keep the sun from heating up your home. Opaque roller shades are the best option, generally blocking out 80% or so of the sun's heat.
  • Switch on the ceiling fan, the right way -- make sure you have the setting turned to counterclockwise so the fan is working to pull the cool air up from the floor.
  • Use a couple of window fans when the sun goes down -- generally speaking, it's cool enough at night to get a nice cross breeze going, if your house is set up that way. No matter what, drawing cool evening air in can make for a comfortable night's sleep.
  • Deflect the air conditioned air up -- heat rises. By using deflectors, you can give it some cool competition.
  • Take it up a few degrees -- if you are running your AC, turn the thermostat up to about 85 degrees or so whenever the house will be empty for more than four hours. A programmable thermostat will come in handy when you're working and want to come home to a comfortable house. Contrary to popular belief, you will save energy by turning your AC up and then cooling things back down when you need to.
  • Keep it clean -- your AC condenser unit, that is. A dirty condenser just simply isn't going to work efficiently, which means it will cost you more money! Please make sure to cut off the power before you take off the access panels and start working on the condenser. If you use window air conditioners, they need to be kept clean as well.
  • Shut 'em up -- your basement is most likely cool enough. Close the registers and let the cool air do its thing on higher floors.
  • Check your filters -- oddly enough, it's important to keep your furnace filters clean during the summer if you are running central air. Why? Because the air still goes through your heating system enroute to your AC system. If you have an electrostatic filter, you'll want to clean that once a month as well.
  • Recharge and recycle -- did you know you should have the refrigerant in your AC system recharged every couple of years? I didn't. Make sure to hire an HVAC pro who not only will recharge the refrigerant, but will recycle it as well!
Well, I intended to keep this entry short. Fail. I hope, at least, it was informative and will help you save your family a few bucks this summer.

Keeping it green to save you some green,


Photo courtesy of Peter Griffin

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