This past winter was harsh, and it certainly showed in your home’s energy bill. Fortunately, now you can take advantage of nicer weather to do some important home improvement projects to prepare your home for spring. Why? Because all that golden sunshine turns into summertime heat, humidity, and high energy bills.
The problem with rain is that you don’t want it getting inside your home. You also don’t want it saturating the soil around your home because then it won’t support the weight of your home. The foundation will settle, causing cracks in the walls, and may also deform the whole structure. Rain gutters collect rain water from your roof and channel it away from your home. So you want to keep the water flowing.
Overflowing or clogged rain gutters are often the causes of damage to homes from water penetrating the sheathing leading to wood rot. They’re also a breeding ground for backyard mosquitos. Don’t like cleaning muck out of gutters? Take the time this spring to install a mesh gutter covering. While you might still need to inspect the gutters twice a year, the mesh covering will prevent leaves, twigs, and nuts from getting in and causing clogs. You should also consider installing a rainbarrel at the bottom of your downspouts to collect rain water for watering plants, trees and shrubs.
Keeping Your Cool About Cooling
In the summer, attics become ovens because of enormous radiant heat from the sun —up to 150°F. The trick to keeping your home cool is to keep your attic cool using ventilation. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends that 1 square foot of ventilation opening should be provided for every 150 square feet of ceiling area. Most homes have passive convection-cooling built into them. Cool air enters the attic through soffit vents at the eaves. As it is warmed, it rises and flows either out through ridge vents, roof vents, or the gable vents.
Some homeowners install solar powered gable or roof vent fans to improve ventilation. While these fans can reduce attic temperatures by as much as 20°F, their actual effect on cooling is “modest” if the attic is well insulated and well sealed. In fact, in houses with poor air sealing and insulation, these fans can suck the cool conditioned air from the house, forcing the air conditioning to run longer and cost more.
A radiant energy barrier looks like foil and bubble-wrap material. It is stapled onto the underside of the roof deck to reflect radiant heat (infrared) coming through the roof back out into space. If you live in a southern state or ORNL’s Zones 1-3, radiant energy barriers can save on your energy costs, especially if you have duct work in your attic. Northern states don’t benefit as much because the angle of the sun is reduced and radiant barrier can’t reflect the energy effectively.
The two most effecive ways to reduce your energy costs for summer cooling are air sealing and insulating your attic. The great thing is that these are also the most effective ways of keepng your home warm in the winter. And with comfortable spring temperatures, now is the time to do it.
While you are up in your attic, keep an eye out for water staining on rafters and sheathing that indicate roof leaks. Common places are around chimneys and valleys where flashing is used and has come loose or been torn. Repairs like these can be time consuming when they are small but they get more expensive as more damage occurs.
Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system needs to be checked out, too. Remember to change the air filter every three months. Use a shop vac to clear any dust or dirt clogging the drain tubing from the condensation drip pan. Also remember to pour a little bleach down the drain pipe to keep it free flowing. On the outside, clean dirt and winter-time debris from the outside unit with a hose and a spray nozzle. Now is also the time to have your AC system inspected by an HVAC professional.
More Spring Cleaning
Apart from your HVAC unit, dirt accumulates everywhere over the winter. Some less remembered places to tidy are:
- Clean winter time debris and dirt from inside your window and door frames to make sure they close snugly
- Inspect your windows and door frames for weatherstripping that needs replacing
- Clean your ceiling fan blades and reverse fan’s direction switch so that it blows straight downward
- Clean the lint from dryer venting, as lint buildup can slow your dryer’s air flow, reduce its efficiency, and increase the risk of fire
Dry The Wet Bottom
Many older homes typically have humidity problems from basements and crawlspaces. This is because warm summer air has a lot of moisture and it condenses on cool surfaces — like basement walls and inside crawlspaces. The solution lies in insulation and vapor barriers. Basements can be made dryer with rigid foam and plastic sheeting while crawlspaces should be completely encapsulated. Both practices can substantially reduce air conditioning costs in summer and cut winter heating bills, too.
What home improvement projects for spring would you recommend? Share your ideas with us in the comments!