Summer can be fun—camping trips, pool days, bonfire nights—but the Colorado heat can make even the extreme summer lover miserable.
Keeping Your Home Safe & Cool
It’s important to keep your home well ventilated and cooled, not just for your comfort, but also for your safety. Your home’s air conditioning system must be well insulated, properly ventilated, and routinely maintained to keep odors, excess carbon dioxide, allergens, and other pollutants out of the air. Of course, we all want our homes to stay cool in the heat, as well!
Understanding the Colorado Heat
Colorado experiences wide temperature variations, even just from day to night. Since humidity is generally quite low, even the hottest days can feel slightly more comfortable than in other parts of the country. However, Colorado’s low humidity results in sometimes brutally hot temperatures, especially in July (typically the state’s hottest month). Depending on where you live, you could experience temperatures in the 100s.
Optimize Your Insulation
Much of a home’s energy costs go to heating and cooling. Proper insulation can help reduce these costs by slowing heat transfer. If you are having a hard time maintaining desired indoor temperatures, you may need to update your home’s insulation.
In summer, gaps and crevices within or around walls, windows, and doors can allow heat to seep into your home. Ensuring proper insulation in the walls, attic, and around windows and doors can help sustain comfortable indoor temperatures year round. Sufficient insulation in the attic is critical, as a roof exposed to the hot sun all day will radiate heat into the attic, which can then raise the temperature of the entire house.
When deciding what kind of insulation is best, look at the R-value. This is a measure of the material’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better it insulates. R-value depends on several things, including the material type, thickness, and density, as well as its age. Thicker insulation typically has a higher R-value.
There are several types of insulation, but the most common are blanket batts and rolls, foam boards, loose-fill, and spray foam.
- Fiberglass blanket batt and rolls are common, affordable options that can be used in any part of the home. However, you may need several layers to reach a high R-value.
- Foam boards are very sturdy and can be found in different materials and thicknesses, so they can also be applied in almost any part of the home. They typically have a high R-value and a long lifespan. However, this option may be impractical for existing walls, since they would need to be torn down and rebuilt to accommodate the insulation.
- Loose-fill (or blown-in) insulation, is frequently used today. It has a fluffy appearance and can be easily added to walls, ceilings, and attics. Loose-fill is made with recycled materials, and it’s very effective in small areas where other forms of insulation won’t work. However, it needs to be sealed properly; otherwise, it can be very susceptible to mold.
- Liquid spray foam expands and hardens to fill all available space. It can be more expensive than other types of insulation, but it has a high R-value and can save you money on other weatherizing steps like caulking. Some spray foam is more water-absorbent than other materials, however, and cannot be used underground or in floors.
Install Energy-Efficient Cooling Systems
If you’re in the market for a new cooling system, energy efficiency should be a priority. A new, high efficiency system will help keep your energy consumption and costs as low as possible while keeping your home cool and comfortable.
Various types of cooling systems are available, but two of the best options for Colorado summers are central air conditioning and evaporative coolers. Evaporative coolers, otherwise called swamp coolers, are available in both single-room and whole-house models. They tend to use less energy than other air conditioners and work best in dry climates. However, it is important to note that they typically require more maintenance than air conditioners.
Evaporative coolers work by passing outdoor air over water-saturated pads. The water in the pads evaporates and coos the air, which is then directed into the home. Evaporative coolers provide a steady stream of fresh air into the house, while central air conditioning systems recirculate air over and over. If your home doesn’t have ductwork, you might also consider single-room air conditioners or a ductless split heat pump. Regardless of the type of cooling system you choose, it is crucial to install the correct size for your home. An HVAC professional can help determine the proper size for your home.
Ensure Proper Ventilation
Ventilation promotes air circulation and reduces indoor heat, but it is especially important when preventing a build-up of odor, carbon dioxide, allergens, and toxins in indoor air. Many cooling systems have built-in ventilation, but you can combine different methods to optimize your system’s ventilation abilities.
- Use spot ventilation in your oven hood to help remove heat and pollutants when cooking, and run the bathroom fan when you bathe or shower. A ceiling vent is also useful in the laundry room.
- Ceiling fans can also help circulate air and use little energy to operate.
- Larger homes can benefit from ceiling fans combined with whole-house fans. A whole-house fan pulls air in from open windows and expels it through the home’s attic and roof. This can require larger attic vents that are two to four times the standard size.
Use Window Treatments and Shades
A simple way to keep your home cool is with window treatments and shades. By blocking out heat and sunlight, you can reduce the strain on your cooling system as well as your utility bills. Choose window shades, blinds, curtains, or a combination of these that fit your budget and style. Additionally, films can be applied directly to the window glass to block sunlight, and exterior shades, shutters, and awnings can be installed around window frames. These exterior options can be ideal for homeowners who do not want to hinder their view of the outside. When choosing window treatments, you can look for products with an Attachments Energy Rating Council (AERC) certification. This organization rates products based on energy efficiency and provides information about what types of climate the product best suits.
Try a Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat can help optimize your home cooling and reduce energy waste. Most smart thermostats can do many things at once: control heating and air conditioning systems, connect to Wi-Fi for remote access, and use sensors and algorithms to increase efficiency. Smart thermostats can be controlled remotely, often with a smartphone app, allowing you to adjust your temperature settings, monitor energy usage, and receive notifications from anywhere. Smart thermostats also have learning capabilities. They can analyze your usage over time and create a schedule for your home to increase efficiency and lower costs. Ask a professional about smart thermostats that may be compatible with your current cooling system, especially if you’re not planning to install a whole new system.
Maintenance and Air Filter Cleaning
Even if you have the best cooling system on the market, it won’t work as efficiently as possible if it’s not maintained properly. Regular maintenance and cleaning of your cooling system is absolutely critical to maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature during Colorado summers.
The type of maintenance required completely depends on what type of cooling system you have. Most air conditioners need their filters replaced or cleaned after every season change, or at least every 3–6 months. You may need to do this more frequently in the presence of high levels of pollutants like wildfire smoke. A clogged or dirty air filter not only reduces airflow and efficiency, but it can also cause health issues, especially for allergy sufferers. Some air filters are reusable and just need a good scrubbing, but many need to be replaced.
Coils and Drains
An air conditioner’s evaporator and condenser coils can also get very dirty, and while a clean air filter can help prevent this, the coils will still collect dirt and need to be cleaned. Dirty coils reduce airflow and actually insulates the coil itself, reducing its ability to absorb heat. To avoid this, clean your evaporator coil at least once a year. Outdoor coils need more attention, especially if you live in a particularly dusty area or one with a lot of foliage. Simply clean the area around the coil, remove any debris you can see, and trim any foliage back at least two feet to allow enough space for airflow around the condenser. Condensate drains in your air conditioner can get clogged, and that excess moisture can discolor your walls and carpet and increase the chance of mold or mildew. On occasion, pass a stiff wire through your unit’s drain channels to clear blockages.
Of course, there is only so much a homeowner can do to properly maintain a cooling system. Call a professional if your system isn’t cooling properly or maintaining a consistent temperature. An experienced technician can find and fix any problems to keep your system as efficient as possible. A professional can check for the correct amount of refrigerant, test for leaks, inspect every electric terminal, and clean and tighten all connections.
Your air conditioning system should be running as efficiently as possible to keep your home comfortable and safe during even the hottest days of summer. A qualified HVAC contractor can assist you in identifying and implementing solutions to stay cool. If your air conditioning isn’t functioning properly, or you feel it could be more efficient, reach out to a local professional for their advice and assistance before trying anything yourself.
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