Weatherproofing Options for People Without Air Conditioning
Summer is approaching, as a matter of fact as I write this, it is officially the first day of summer and the temperature this morning here in the high desert is already 85 degrees. In other words, it's air conditioner weather and many of us don't have air conditioning.
Many older homes and older apartments don't have air conditioning, so keeping cool in the heat can be a challenge. Strategically located fans and weatherproofing your home or apartment is the best way to stay cool when you lack A/C, and of no less importance, even if you do have air conditioning, keeping cool in the summer can impact your budget. Energy costs for air conditioning are significant. They are the gas guzzlers of electrical appliances, so weatherproofing your home not only adds to your comfort, it can help save money
Make an Assessment
You need to survey your home. Assess the condition of the insulation on windows and doors, in the wall, and especially in the attic. Small cracks can allow heat in. Even outlets and light switches can be a source of heat, and for that matter--light bulbs. Energy efficient lighting not only cuts down on electrical consumption, it generates significantly less heat.
Older homes built on raised foundations seldom have insulation between the foundation and sub-floor, and they generally lack insulation in attics or in walls. Easy enough to determine, just take a gander and see what's there. It is more difficult to determine if any insulation exists in the wall, but a small easily patchable hole or two can tell you a lot.
A friend once taught me a pretty neat trick for checking for air flow through and door windows that appear to have adequate insulation. Take a small fan and blow it on a window or around doors--if you feel any air on the other side, the insulation needs to be replaced. Or try the old standby—light a candle and move it around the window frames to see if it flickers.
Insulate Your Home
One of the most effective ways to insulate an older home is by replacing older single pane windows with new thermally insulated ones. Replacing windows, however is not inexpensive and usually requires a professional installer. As will be discussed below, there are less expensive means to insulate by caulking, insulating windows, and weather-stripping doors.
Different types of insulation have varying degrees of insulating value measured in something called R-Value - a measure of thermal resistance. There are R-Value calculators available and your building professional can also help you determine the right insulation for the space you're trying to insulate. There is insulation that can be blown into walls (usually requiring a professional). The attic is the source of the greatest amount of radiant heat transferred or generated into a home. You can easily insulate an attic using rolled insulation, making for a simple do-it-yourself project. Installing rolled insulation in an attic requires only a staple gun and facemask. Hot air rises, so even if you choose not to insulate your attic consider installing an attic fan to vent the hot air to the outside, it can make an enormous difference in the amount of heat transferred into your living space.
Paint Your Roof
Not often considered, but a huge source of radiant heat, is the color of your roof. Many roofs are dark colored, and as anyone who owns a dark colored automobile and made the mistake of touching it in the hot sun knows, dark colors absorb significantly more heat than a light colors. Radiant heat is absorbed by the roofing material, and then transferred through the roof into the attic or directly into a home. White or light colors reflect heat, so painting a dark colored roof white can significantly reduce heat transfer into your home.
The insulation around windows and doors is called weather-stripping. Weather-stripping is designed to stop the flow of air around doors and through window sashes and frames when they are closed. Simple products, which make for easy do-it-yourself projects, such as door shoes can be installed. This form of weather-stripping contains a rubber gasket that can be attached to the bottom of doors to seal it to the threshold. There is a product called jamb-up - applied around the door jamb - that contains a rubber bulb which compresses to the door to seal it upon closing. Gaskets are used to seal windows. The simplest is a rolled insulating material with an adhesive backing, which is applied by pressing it around the window. Windows frames that are leaking should be caulked with a high quality latex caulking, which can be painted to match the color of the exterior walls.
Cool air is denser than warm air, and as a consequence warm air rises and cool air falls, so insulating a subfloor can be helpful in keeping a house cooler by preventing cool air from escaping through the floor. A window fan placed up high can also be helpful in removing warm air and circulating cool air.
The Moral of the Story
Taking the time to properly insulate your home, especially if you lack air conditioning, is an inexpensive and do-it-yourself friendly way to add to your comfort on hot days, and if all else fails you can always move to the beach.