But don’t get yourself steamed up. To prevent your summer cooling costs from boiling over, we’ve got five ways you can keep a lid on them by improving your home energy efficiency. And they’ll work all year ‘round, too.
1. Air seal your home. Air sealing your home means finding and sealing places where outside air is getting into your home. In the summer, drafts add to your home’s cooling load if they’re not sealed shut. Two of the most common locations that need air sealing are in your attic and along sillplates. In the attic , use expanding foam or caulk to seal gaps and holes where pipes or wires enter from below. Seal and enclose can light fixtures around attic doors. The sillplate (or mudsill) is where the wooden framing of the house meets the foundation. Use caulk or expanding foam to seal drafts and provide extra insulation.
If your home has a crawlspace, just covering the bare earth inside with 6 mil plastic sheeting as a vapor barrier will reduce the humidity in the living space. For better efficiency, look into encapsulating your crawl space.
2. Air seal your ductwork. By sealing both the out-flow and return ductwork, you improve the efficiency of circulating air through your home because it will be running in a more tightly closed loop. By running more efficiently, especially during this hot summer, you’ll pay a lot less on your Texas electricity rates.
If you have insulated flex ductwork in your attic, look for kinks at bends because this will cut off or and slow the air flow. Reconnect and seal loose connections and gaps with aluminum duct tape or ductwork mastic. For holes, you can use silicon caulk. Be sure to seal all of them because 50 little holes will leak as much air as one big one.
3. Shade your home from the Texas summer sun. Plant trees along your southwestern side of your home—particularly on the southwest. Trees can reduce surrounding air temperatures by up to 9 degrees. By carefully positioning trees to shade your home, you can save up to 25%.
Close drapes on your south and west facing windows to keep the sun’s heat out of your home. Their pleats and folds will help lose heat through convection plus if they have a white-plastic backing, they will reduce heat gains by 33%.
4. Keep your attic cool. You know that attics get HOT. The roof and walls of your home absorb the radiant heat coming from the sun, which radiates heat into your attic. Air tempertures can soar to 150°F. Some of that heat will radiate into your living space. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends 1 square foot of ventilation opening should be provided for every 150 square feet of ceiling area. Most homes have passive convection-cooling built into them.
Adding ventilation, like solar powered gable fans or solar powered roof vent fans, does help reduce attic temperatures by as much as 20°F. However, if the attic is well insulated and well sealed their actual effect on cooling is “modest”.
Install a radiant energy barrier. Sure, it looks like aluminum foil and bubblewrap but radiant barriers reflect 90-97% of heat back through the roof and can save on your energy costs, especially if you have your ductwork and air conditioning equipment in your attic.
5. Add more insulation to your attic. The Oakridge National Laboratory recommends a minimum attic insulation rating of R30 or about 8 inches. Insulation isn’t just for cold. Think of an ice chest cooler. By adding insulation to your attic now in the spring, you slow down the heat conduction rate of that summer time attic heat from trying to get into your living space. Adding insulation keeps you —and your energy costs — a lot cooler.
One more thing — Avoid using appliances during the day that add to your cooling load. Dryers, dishwashers, and especially ovens put out lots of heat that will make your air conditioning run longer to keep your Texas home cool —adding to your energy bill.