Ask the Home Inspectors: Tips to cool your home
By Gabe Semenza and Joe Hanselka
Aug. 8, 2012 at 3:08 a.m.
Keeping your South Texas home cool can become costly and complex.
Factors can go beyond the size and efficiency of your air conditioning system.
The home's orientation to the sun, location of shade trees, and quality of windows, insulation and attic ventilation are just a few factors that can influence your indoor air temperature.
Even so, you can implement a few relatively easy tips to live more comfortably amid summer temps - and maybe save money in the process.
Use ceiling fans
By simply turning on a ceiling fan, you can decrease the feel of a room's temperature by 8 degrees, according to the National Association of Realtors.
This not only makes a particular room feel more comfortable, it also decreases the need for air conditioning. For every degree you raise the air conditioning thermostat above 78 degrees, you can save 3-8 percent on cooling costs.
Additionally, most ceiling fans use just slightly more energy than a 100-watt light bulb, the association notes, and new Energy Star-rated fans use about half that.
Using ceiling fans can be an affordable means to help beat the heat. Contact the appropriate expert to determine such specifications as the proper fan size, motor quality and more for your particular room.
Change your air filter and trim the bottom of interior bedroom and hallway doors
While the discussion of an air conditioning system's configuration and return airflow goes well beyond the scope of this column, know this: For your home to be properly heated and cooled, ample return airflow is key.
When you turn your AC on, warmed air in the home is drawn into the return air plenum, which should be located behind your return air filter. That air flows through the plenum and into the air conditioner. Heat from the air is removed and then that air is sent back to the home in a cooler form.
If the air conditioning system cannot efficiently draw warm air into it, that warm air will linger in your home, which thus will not be adequately cooled.
To encourage better return air flow, you can replace dirty air filters. You can also trim interior doors that, when closed, rub on or almost touch floors.
Optimally, you want to trim doors so that their bottoms are about 1.5 inches off the floor - or enough so that you can roughly slide a pizza box under them.
This gap should allow the air conditioning system to properly pull warm air from a bedroom even if the door is closed.
If you think you have poor return air flow problems, please consult a licensed HVAC expert.
Use your garage to naturally cool the home
If you have an attached garage with attic space above it, as well as a garage-based attic access ladder or access hole, you can use one of our favorite cooling tips.
Open your automatic garage door until it's 2-4 inches or so off the floor - enough to let cool air in but not a burglar or the neighbor's dog. (Keep in mind other critters, especially of the slithering variety, can find their way through this gap).
Then, prop open the garage's attic access ladder by about 12 inches, or enough to let a sizable draft enter your attic.
As you know, cold air settles and hot air rises. Opening your automatic garage door will let cool air and a draft in; opening your attic access panel will draw that air into the attic and help to push the hot air up there and out through the roof vents, assuming you have proper attic ventilation.
Keeping your attic cool will help to keep your home cool - and those monthly cooling bills down.
Gabe Semenza, TREC Lic. No. 20,326, is owner of Semenza Inspections. Joe Hanselka, TREC Lic. No. 1,166, is owner of Crossroads Inspection Services, and Semenza's professional sponsor. If you have questions about inspections, contact the real estate inspectors at 361-676-1480 or 361-576-6429 respectively.