As we approach Texas’ hottest time of the year — average highs range between 92 and 97 degrees between June and August — we need to think about minimizing the impact of that heat on our homes.
Just as extreme cold can stress houses in colder climes, extreme heat can cause wear and tear to your Lone Star State home while also hiking your energy usage. But if you address potential problems now, you’ll be set to kick back and enjoy the sun and balmy breezes without worry. Consider these preparation tips.
- Look for leaks. Malfunctions in your outdoor faucets and/or sprinkler systems could be wasting precious water and may be dehydrating your landscape.
- Gap analysis. Leaking air along doorways, windows, foundations and other seams could be putting your AC into overdrive. You may wish to hire a certified technician who can conduct an energy audit, including a blower door test, to identify such leaks.
- Please unplug. Avoid the incremental waste of electricity by unplugging appliances you seldom (if ever) use over the summer.
- Optimize A/C. Change your filters regularly, and if you’re due for your annual A/C tune-up, schedule it before the busy season kicks in. Note that small problems can become big issues if not addressed right away; for example, repairing a minor leak could be cheap but replacing a burnt-out compressor caused by lack of refrigerant will likely be costly.
- Get cooking with small appliances. Preparing food via your microwave, toaster oven or slow cooker is much easier on your A/C than cranking up your entire oven or stove in the summer.
- It’s curtains for you. Switch to double- or triple-layered heavy curtains backed with insulation to keep the sun from heating your rooms, especially if your windows face west. Effective window coverings can reduce heat gain by up to 77 percent, according to Consumer Reports.
- Awesome awnings. Think about adding solar screens or awnings to the outside of windows; Consumer Reports estimates they reduce solar heat gain by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows, 77 percent on west-facing windows.
- Fan of fans? A whirring fan is the sound of summer, and the handy gadgets can be a very cost-effective alternative to air conditioning. You might aim to create a wind tunnel effect by placing them in opposing windows so one pulls in fresh air while the other forces out hot air. Another tried-and-true method is creating so-called “swamp fans” by placing buckets of cool water or ice in front of blowers.
- Think thermostat. Fine-tune your heating and A/C costs by installing a Wi-Fi–enabled smart thermostat that’s easily controlled by your smartphone or computer. Remotely tweak your home’s temperatures on demand or schedule automatic changes based on your lifestyle. The latest models “learn” your daily routines and adjust themselves accordingly.
- It’s a breeze. Set your ceiling fans to “counterclockwise” so warm air is directed up and away. These highly efficient tools create breezes that make air seem cooler than it really is so you can notch up your thermostat and save money.
- Drop your dryer. Typically, dryers take up 80 percent of the energy used for home laundry. That means indoor or outdoor air drying can be a significant money-saver. Additionally, adding a dry towel to your dryer load can reduce the time to dry that load.
Taking time to prepare for the hottest days of a Texas summer can provide peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can to minimize stress on your home and control your energy bills.