My turn-of-the-century home is lovely, but it sure does get hot in the summer. Do you know why this happens or how I can make it cooler during the summer months?
Dear Hot Homeowner:
I get this question a lot, especially with older homes, as they are quite often poorly insulated.
Generally, a well-insulated home retains heat during cold weather and stays cool during hot weather. Newer homes tend to be more energy efficient, as energy codes have improved over the years.
For instance, current codes require the entire exterior wall cavity to be filled with insulation, including insulated headers over doors and windows, but this hasn’t always been the case.
In an older home, the attic may have little insulation, and it may have been disrupted over the years, creating leak points where warm air escapes in the winter and hot air gets in during the summer.
Also, your attic may not have adequate venting, which means that accumulated hot air will take the path of least resistance out – oftentimes down into the house.
Windows can also be the source of weak points, especially if you still have single-pane windows rather than the double or even triple-pane windows found on today’s market.
There are many ways to solve this problem, depending on your budget and the design of your home. First, check with your local utility company to see if they offer energy audits to help identify problem areas – many provide them at little to no cost.
Then, consider these 10 steps to keeping your older home cool on warm days:
- Plant shade trees or vegetation to keep the strongest sun rays from hitting your home.
- Install awnings, trellises or other outside structures to keep the sun from beating down on your windows.
- To minimize heat transmission, replace single-pane windows with double or triple pane argon/insulated windows. You can also add tint to reduce solar-heat gain.
- While it is sometimes difficult to add insulation to walls, attic space can oftentimes be easily accessed by blow-in insulation.
- Since heat rises, install attic vents to help it escape.
- Install an attic fan connected to a thermostat to help push hot air out of the attic.
- If exterior doors are the source of your leak, use new caulking or weather stripping to seal the space.
- Whenever possible, take advantage of cross-ventilation by opening windows on opposite ends of the house to increase airflow. This is especially effective if you keep your home closed up during the hottest parts of the day and then open the windows as temperatures drop.
- Ceiling fans are great for circulating the air, but even low-cost drugstore fans will help. Not to mention, they’re getting quieter and more energy efficient every year.
- Finally, if you’re thinking about getting a window unit or free-standing air-conditioner, try to shop off-season before demand and prices spike.
If you would like to talk about what could be done in your home, I’d love to help. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Seattle-area native, Jamie Hsu is President of award-winning residential construction company Lakeville Homes. For 30 years, Lakeville Homes has been building and renovating homes on the Eastside. As a former National Association of Home Builders Remodeler of the Month, Director for the nation’s largest and oldest home builders association as well as past Chair for the local Remodelers Council, Jamie brings industry knowledge from both the customer and professional perspective.