Friday, September 17, 2021

How to Keep Your Home Cool

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Since 2013, we’ve put a whole lot of hours of labor into discovering the very best instruments to assist anybody quiets down. By way of reporting, testing, and basic life expertise, we’ve additionally collected a variety of info on the way to make this gear work higher. Whether or not you’re unsure of the place to start or wish to enhance the effectiveness of your current setup, we’re right here to assist.

The essential instruments for retaining cool

Air conditioning:

This can be apparent; however, your first step to overcoming muggy summer season warmth is air-con. There’s simply no substitute. Not solely is AC the one option to truly decrease the air temperature in your house, the dehumidifying results of air-con additionally improve the efficiency of your physique’s pure cooling system: sweating.

Humid air makes it harder for sweat to evaporate, which is why humid days of the summer season really feel even hotter. The so-called “warmth index” quantifies this phenomenon. For instance, an 88-degree day with 85 % humidity has a warmth index of 110 levels. Air-con works by pulling each warmth and moisture out of the indoor air, decreasing your private home’s warmth index.

In case you don’t have central AC, however, you do have double-hung home windows—the type that open and shut by sliding up and down—the place to start is our information to window air conditioners. Our information has suggestions for varied wants (like extra-quiet items for the bedroom, or items that allow you to nonetheless open-and-close the window), in addition to a decision for anybody with casement home windows (which swing open like a door) or sliding home windows (which slide open and shut on horizontal rails).

We’ve additionally examined portable air conditioners, which sit inside a room and vent the warmth exterior through a versatile hose. They’re much less environment-friendly and dearer (to not point out bulkier) than window air conditioners, so they’re not our first suggestion. However, there are conditions (basement areas are frequent ones, as are some West Coast properties that haven’t any double-hung home windows) the place they’re the one kind of AC that may work.

In case you personal your house and don’t have already got central HVAC, you may be curious about a unique sort of everlasting AC setup. So-called ductless or mini-split air conditioners may be as environment friendly as central HVAC techniques; however, they are a lot simpler to retrofit to a current house; as a result, they don’t require the set up of ductwork. As an alternative, they use indoor fan items to flow into the house’s air. These are plumbed by way of the partitions to an outside compressor that handles the cooling duties. It’s a sublime resolution. Nevertheless, it’s one with limits. You’ll want to have doors house for that compressor, after all, and you must drill some holes by way of your partitions, which means mini-splits aren’t usually a choice for condominium dwellers or home renters. We haven’t carried out information on those items; however, we plan to, and sooner or later, we hope to have the ability to provide suggestions on fashions.

Finally, should you do have central AC, good for you! Right here is our guide to furnace and air-conditioner filters. Yours most likely wants a change. And should you’ve obtained them, it’s best to most likely clean the washable filter in your window or transportable unit, too.

The ring-shaped Dyson Air Multiplier fan
Photo: Marshall Troy

Room fans, ceiling fans, and window fans:

Followers don’t cool the air; however, they will make you really feel cooler by making a breeze that helps sweat evaporate extra shortly off of your physique. They will additionally assist in distributing conditioned air between components of your private home—particularly helpful if you have any windowless rooms or rooms that are likely to flow into poorly even with a central HVAC system. A room fan is essentially the most versatile kind, as a result of it doesn’t require set up, is simple to maneuver around your private home, and might direct a breeze simply the place you need it. In our guide to room fans, we’ve checked out a whole lot and have discovered several which might be dependable and efficient; in reality, our high decide is particularly designed to create a vortex that circulates the air within the room as an alternative to simply sometimes blowing it on you. When you have an outdated room fan that begins gathering mud, we will additionally stroll you thru the way to clear it, so it really works higher (belief us, it makes a distinction).

A ceiling fan is more difficult than a room fan; nevertheless, it doesn’t require any ground house. The suitable switches can provide you much more choices on pace and management, and there are numerous extra aesthetic choices. A whole lot of ceiling fan fashions are completely successful; Wirecutter’s Harry Sawyers has put in one specific Westinghouse mannequin (and Lutron swap) on several occasions, and he recommends that fan and light combo to anybody, including a brand new ceiling fan.

Lastly, a window fan may help draw recent air right into a stuffy room and pulling scorching air out, and our dual-blade decision permits you to do each concurrently. However, in contrast to the primary two fan choices, a window fan requires an open window, so it’s not environment friendly to make use of alongside air-con.

Lightweight sheets and blankets:

In Wirecutter’s guide to bed sheets for summer, we advocate percale, a crisper, ‘drier,’ extra breathable cotton weave than sateen and flannel, the opposite frequent sheeting materials fabricated from cotton. They’re nice year-round, however, very best in the summer season. Linen sheets are much more breathable than cotton percale, and they’re seeing a resurgence after being laborious to seek out for years. We now have picked for both at costs that go well with most budgets. In a separate Wirecutter guide to blankets, our picks for a lightweight choice are the Gossamer blanket from Vermont Nation Retailer and Boll & Department’s waffle weave.

Window shades or curtains:

Any shades or curtains can restrict the quantity of daylight and warmth getting into your private home through the home windows. We now have several picks for room-darkening choices in our guide to blackout shades and our guide to blackout curtains. Select Blinds, our decide within the shades information, is a mobile shade that considerably reduces the photo voltaic warmth getting into your private home, with blackout choices in addition to light-filtering shades that permit gentle go by way of however present privateness.

A choice for window shading is a photovoltaic movie. It’s a stick-on plastic sheet that deflects a lot of the infrared (warmth) and UV gentle coming by way of home windows, decreasing indoor temperatures and serving to forestall the fading of rugs and fabric. The essential kind of photovoltaic movie (dyed/metalized) is cheap at about $20 to $40 per roll; however, the drawback is it could create a partial mirror impact indoors, decreasing your capability to see the exterior. We haven’t carried out information on photovoltaic movies and might advocate a selected mannequin; however, 3M, a serious producer of the movies, has a good primer on the varieties obtainable. You may as well discover a wide range of choices by way of locations like Amazon and Home Depot, although you continue to would possibly need to seek the advice of 3M or an expert first.

Finally, if you have south or west-facing home windows close to an outside house, take a patio umbrella into account. A well-placed umbrella can create an awning-like impact with no drilling or contractors required. This may be sufficient to dam intense warmth from the setting solar on scorching days and can even make a small distinction decreasing the noon warmth reflecting off tables or decking close to a big patio or balcony door.

Subsequent steps: Insulate and seal

It’s a standard false impression that ACs pull heat air out of your private home and draw recent air in, cooling it alongside the best way. Actually, air-con works by isolating the indoor air from the skin, repeatedly recirculating and re-cooling the indoor air—that’s why it’s so necessary to have a well-sealed, well-insulated house. Sadly, no home is completely sealed; however, you can enhance the effectiveness of your cooling home equipment with several reasonably priced, put-in tweaks.

An AC unit fitted in a window
Photo: Liam McCabe

Climate-strip your home windows:

By the Power Division, warmth gained and misplaced by home windows accounts for 25 to 30 percent of house heating and cooling expenditures. Leaks across the home windows contribute to that quantity. Air can slip across the hole between the body (the half affixed to the wall) and the sash (the half that strikes).

Weatherstripping fills that hole, drastically decreasing leaks. On commonplace single- and double-hung home windows, the place the sashes slide up and down, it’s greatest to make use of V-seal stripping on the aspect rails. These strips of plastic, formed like a slender V in cross-sections, spring open gently to fill any gaps however are sturdy and slick sufficient to let the home windows open and shut freely. (You need to use foam strips to fill gaps on the highest and backside of the home windows.) Casement home windows, which swing open like doorways, don’t put a lot of wear-and-tear on weatherstripping, so it’s OK to make use of less complicated foam strips, like this ¾-inch example at Home Depot. (We now have personally used comparable merchandise; however, we haven’t carried out a full Wirecutter test on the precise fashions linked right here.) You’ll want to determine what thickness and width make sense for a good seal in your home windows; Lowe’s has a strong primer on the supplies and setup methods.

Set up a door sweep and new door seals—or use a towel:

Gaps around and beneath exterior doorways are one other main supply of leaks. Door sweeps (aka door bottoms) shut the hole beneath the door and the ground. Put in by both screwing to the door face or sliding over the size of the door backside, the sweep’s rubber flange or broom-like bristles barely scrape the ground to cease air motion whereas permitting the door to swing freely.

Additionally, you will want a door seal, which works across the sides and high of the door, much like weatherstripping a window perimeter. The type you want will depend on your kind of door; however, many commonplace doorways have a slot (or kerf) within the jamb that means you can press in a weatherstrip replacement seal, which is usually an improvement to your current, most likely deteriorated weatherstripping. Here’s a video from manufacturer Frost King that particulars how to set up a door seal. (Just like the window merchandise, we’ve used comparable gadgets; however, we haven’t comparison-tested these particular fashions.)

In case you’re renting and desire a fast repair, a rolled-up outdated towel or folded-over rug on the backside of an exterior door (or a door to a constructing hallway) could make a notable distinction in excessive climate, too—however, after undoing your work to open the door several occasions, you may end up out there for one thing extra everlasting.

Add insulation to window ACs:

Window AC items sometimes have skinny, accordion-like extensions on both aspects to fill any gaps between the machine itself and the window body. They’re simple to put in imperfectly, leaving gaps large enough for air (if not bugs) to infiltrate the house. Even completely put in, they don’t present nice insulation. Use foam strips to shut up any gaps you could see or really feel; there are even foam strips specifically designed for window ACs. Cowl the accordions with panels of rigid foam insulation—or, for extra money, there may be additionally a specific product to insulate a window AC—however, should you’re okay with one thing less complicated, we’ve even re-used foam panels from transport supplies (which don’t have the heat-resisting R-value of the actual factor, however which assist). Whichever foam panel you select, use a utility knife to trim it for a good {custom} match towards the AC sides and the window body. Retailer your custom-cut panels alongside your AC unit within the offseason; they usually will be able to go subsequent summer season.

Fill gaps around plumbing and vents:

There are loads of less-obvious locations where air, warmth, and humidity can go by way of your partitions: exterior range and dryer vents, plumbing provide and drain traces, and even HVAC ducting can enable cool air to flee or scorching air in. Caulk, foil tape, and spray foam (like Great Stuff) can be utilized to shut these gaps, decreasing the quantity of cool air that leaks out of your private home. A notice on the spray foam—it’s super-effective, nevertheless it’s an expandable foam that hardens to a beige blob, and it often doesn’t come out trying all that nice, so reserve it for much less seen areas like under-sink cabinetry.

If you wish to go additional, some frequent bigger jobs embody including insulation to the ground of an attic house, including ridge vents alongside the attics of sure sorts of peaked roofs, contemplating reflective roofing supplies to cut back photo voltaic warmth achieve, or adding a radiant barrier underneath the roof. The US Department of Energy recommends including new attic-floor insulation to realize the equal of R-30 (a measure of insulating effectivity, equal to an 8-to-10–inch layer of basic fiberglass batts). Additionally, they advocate caulking round outlet packing containers, HVAC registers, ceiling lights, and different utilities to maintain cool air from bleeding out by way of the attic.

Finally, the DOE usually suggests you look into effectivity applications and rebates out of your native utility that will reduce the price of sure upgrades; we agree it’s price investigating.

The drawback to all this insulation and sealing is that the air can begin to really feel a bit stuffy and rancid over time. If that’s the case in your house, attempt including an air purifier into the combination to maintain issues recently.

For anybody who desires to transcend the recommendation right here: Wirecutter author and longtime homebuilder Doug Mahoney swears by the e-book Insulate and Weatherize by Bruce Harley, a complete have a look at retaining a house tightly sealed for optimum effectivity. We’ve additionally turned to Green Building Advisor for superior questions on insulating and weatherizing, in addition to the how-to sources at This Old House, Journal of Light Construction, Fine Homebuilding, and others. Please share any further suggestions we’ve missed, and keep cool!

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