9 Ways to Beat the Heat
- Direction is key. The direction and layout of your home can add or decrease the amount of heat gain. A north-south facing home is optimal as the front and back of the structure are usually used for entrance, egress and view access; they generally have the most windows and doors susceptible to the blazing sun. Keeping the sides of the home east and west, preferably with the garage on the west, is optimal. If you already have your lot or land and it is facing east-west, have no fear. Keep reading.
- No matter what direction your house is facing, the use of well designed porches is an excellent way to beat the heat. Porches create an enjoyable, shady outdoor space. However, they do more by protecting the interior conditioned space from taking a beating by the sun.
- Worried that deep porches might make your home too dark? They might. The use of high windows (clerestory windows) properly sized and placed can give your room very nice natural lighting. Another option is the use of skylights or solar tubes. I prefer the Solatube brand. Windows are a very important consideration. They are the main conductors of heat and cold on the outer shell of your home. Size, placement, R-factor, (resistance of the window to heat conduction), operation, and quality are all very important characteristics in your home design and should be discussed in detail with your architect or home designer.
- In some instances, you might want big beautiful windows to capture a view. Maybe even of a west facing sunset. A porch might not be appropriate or feasible due to lot or monetary constraints. Here is where well-placed awnings can provide some sun protection while allowing for the beautiful view.
- Another useful item when protecting your home from heat and UV rays is window film. I have had great success using 3M window products. Window film can be used for heat reduction alone; however it is useful for other design aspects as well. It can be used to assist in protecting furniture and art from fading, or to obscure windows in areas where privacy is desired. I have also used window film to dress up simple single pane doors. Some window manufacturers void their warranty when film is applied. However, a number of window film manufacturers, 3M specifically, will take over the manufacturer’s warranty and match it for the original home owner.
- Aside from windows conducting heat into your home, your walls and roof absorb heat as well. I do not recommend skimping on your insulation. Attic temperatures can reach 150 to 160 degrees in the summer when outside temperatures are 95 to 98 degrees. To reduce these temperatures, it is best to design a closed attic system if possible. It is usually only a small percentage increase in cost over batt insulation and hardly noticeable in your overall new home budget. A closed attic system is created by spraying Icynene on the underside of the roof deck and on any sections of vertical wall exposed to the attic cavity. This keeps the entire attic cavity cooler than having insulation installed on the floor of the attic where the attic cavity temperature can escalate. A closed attic system will aid in keeping your home cooler from attic heat absorption as well as keeping your AC ducts (usually found in the attic) much cooler. Using icynene in walls, around outlets, and around light fixtures would be the best holistic approach. Your heating and air conditioning bill can be greatly reduced while your comfort is increased.
- Mother nature can provide one of your biggest assets. Trees. Especially on the west facing side of your home site. Keeping as many trees as possible in key directions will greatly assist in keeping your home cooler. Your design professional will most likely ask you for a “tree survey” of your lot or building site area. This is for the purpose of saving as many trees as possible. Not only are trees aesthetically pleasing, but they assist in keeping your home a little more protected from the elements. For trees that are close to the desired building site or that require a large amount of trimming to be out of the way of the new structure, a consultation with an arborist is well worth the money. The arborist can advise you on how to care for the trees before, during, and after construction. If you have not already purchased your property, it is a good idea to have your design professional take a look at the property you are considering prior to going under contract. They can discuss the various design possibilities of the property terrain with you.
- While trees are fantastic, it is not always the more the merrier. In certain key locations, such as porches where you would like to spend time outdoors, it is preferred to allow for cross breezes from the prevailing wind direction to naturally cool outdoor areas, whether it is a cross breeze or capturing wind flow. If you enjoy cooling your home at night in the spring and fall by opening the windows, it is good to consider window size and location to accommodate the prevailing breeze.
CEILING FANS AND BLINDS
- Last but not least is the installation of ceiling fans (reversible) and blinds. The airflow of the ceiling fan breeze can be very cost-saving over turning your air conditioner a few degrees cooler. The use of blinds (or curtains) during the hot part of the day really will reduce the heat in the room. Just put your hand on a window in your current home that has the sunlight hitting it on an August afternoon. There are many ways to beat the heat when designing your new home or even remodeling your existing home. After designing in Austin Texas for over 30 years, I have incorporated many main stream techniques as well as some highly creative unique solutions. I would love to share these ideas with you on your project.