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Home Cooling Techniques
By Dawn R. West
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As summer weather quickly approaches, the soaring temperatures are causing growing concerns for Mississippians trying to stay cool and prevent rising utility bills. Applying a few basic techniques can help better prepare homes for the hot weather.
Dr. Frances Graham, extension housing specialist at Mississippi State University, said there are four basic ways to keep homes cool.
"The four best ways to keep cool are conservation, shading, ventilation and conditioning," Graham said. "Conservation means keeping the cool air in and shading means keeping hot air out. Ventilation is the movement of air and conditioning is the process of cooling and dehumidifying the home using an air conditioner."
Attic insulation is as important for cooling in the summer as it is for heating in the winter.
"We recommend insulation with an r-value of 30. This number is an indication of the resistance factor of the insulation," Graham said. "Insulation is an effective means of conservation."
Other cost-effective additions include floor and wall insulation as well as storm windows.
Another way to conserve energy is to weatherize homes to keep out moist, hot air. The best way to weatherize the home is to caulk any cracks or crevices and weather strip doors and windows.
"Kitchen and bathroom vent fans and openings where pipes or wires enter the house tend to be a weatherization problem," Graham said."Where two different materials meet, such as brick and wood, check to see if caulking is needed."
Landscaping around the home can help in shading.
"Shade trees or even trellises will help during the low morning and afternoon sun," Graham said. "Even porches could benefit from vines or other plants."
Shading also includes "movable insulation" such as shades, interior or exterior shutters, curtains, drapes, blinds and other types of window dressing.
"Sunscreens provide a type of shading if they are installed on the exterior windows," Graham added.
Home ventilation cools in two ways. First, it moves the air out of the house, and it helps us feel better by evaporating some of the moisture from our bodies.
"Research shows that ventilation can make the air feel up to 10 degrees cooler depending on the humidity and the velocity," Graham said. "Timing is important because on summer mornings the windows should remain closed to retain coolness from the night."
The specialist said a well-insulated house will gain only about 1 degree per hour if the outside temperature is between 80 and 95 degrees. The hotter it is outside the quicker the house warms up.
Other forms of ventilation are opening windows and doors, vent fans, movement of air through ceiling fans and attic fans.
The specialist said an attic fan can be used to increase ventilation by moving the hottest air out of the attic and providing an environment for the house to be cooler.
Be sure heating and cooling units are sized properly for the size of homes. Check the energy efficiency rating when purchasing a central heating and cooling unit.
"A thermostatically controlled air conditioner will actually help in dehumidification, but an oversized one will not function long enough to do the proper job of dehumidifying the air," Graham said.
Other ways to help conserve energy are to keep the thermostat set at 78 degrees or higher, keep the condenser clear of debris and check filters frequently, changing them at least once a month.