Summer is here and it’s a great time to take on a home improvement project. The lack of rain, mud, or ice means no project has to be canceled due to bad weather; plus, the days are longer too! But you still need a place to cool down. So why not consider some home improvement tips for summer that will make your home an inviting respite after some fun in the sun? There are home improvement ideas that can help maintain a cozy room temperature without having to overwork the air conditioner. To that end, here are nine home improvement ideas to keep your house cool in the hot Chicago summer:
1. A New Roof
This probably isn’t an idea that would come first to mind. But if your roof is nearing the end of its lifespan, or you’ve experienced damage to the roof, you may want to consider calling the local roofing company to install a new cool roof. Traditional roofs act like blacktops absorbing heat which isn’t good for indoor temperatures or the roof’s longevity. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), conventional can reach 150°F or more on a sunny afternoon. In contrast, a cool reflective roof can be more than 50°F cooler in the same conditions.
Reflective roofs have a high thermal emittance/solar reflectance, allowing them to reflect sunlight and heat away. It used to be that people worried that such roofs were too white, but roof technology has come a long way so that it’s now possible to get these roofs in a slew of colors, including black. According to the Cool Roof Rating Council, homeowners can expect to save between 7% to 15% on their home cooling costs. Not only that, but a cool roof can also prolong the life of your air conditioning unit by reducing the strain on the system. When purchasing one, ensure you get one that is ENERGY STAR certified since that rating requires that the roof be capable of reducing peak cooling demand by 10% to 15%.
According to Fixr, the national average cost of a cool roof installation is $7,500 to $30,000. For a 1500-square foot roof using white solar-reflective architectural shingles, you can expect to pay around $10,000. A low-pitch roof of the same size using a single-layer PSF roof would cost around $6,000. It should be noted that there are other options to cool your roof other than a replacement. One of them is installing insulation. Roof insulation should be considered if your ceilings are part of the roof deck, as is the case with cathedral ceilings. Other roof cooling options include cool roof coatings, coated metal roofs, and ballasted roofing systems.
2. Insulated Siding
According to the DOE, a home should be insulated from the roof to its foundation for optimal energy efficiency. Insulated local siding is a popular way of adding insulation to the exterior walls of a house. Vinyl siding laminated with foam core backing is a popular choice amongst homeowners. Insulated siding helps reduce thermal bridging, an instance where energy is lost through conductive materials such as the wood studs of a home. 25% of a home is wood studs which equates to about a whole wall without insulation. The DOE recommends that those replacing exterior siding should consider adding in insulation.
According to a study by Newport Ventures, installing insulated vinyl siding and a weather-resistant barrier to existing homes reduces air infiltration by an average of 12%. Energy savings averaged 5.5%. A reduction in air infiltration can increase a home’s energy efficiency, especially when you consider that energy loss through the walls accounts for close to 35% of total energy loss. The roof accounts for 25%. Insulated siding is also made of high-grade materials, so it offers better protection from damage, warping, or fading. According to Lawnstarter, insulated vinyl costs between $6 to $12.66 per square foot. Siding services will charge between $1.06 and $2.50 per square foot as labor costs.
3. Install Ceiling Fans
Installing ceiling fans will circulate air around your home and keep it cool. The spinning fans will make your home more refreshing as they do away with stagnating air. According to the DOE, ceiling fans allow you to raise the thermostat setting by around 4°F with no change in comfort level. This is great for your heating bill, and the longevity of your HVAC since the reduced strain on the system means you won’t have to call air conditioner repair companies any time soon. Get an Energy Star certified unit so you don’t incur a large electric bill. Energy Star certified models are up to 40% more efficient than conventional models on average.
The DOE also states that ceiling fans are suitable for eight-foot ceilings and above. A large fan is best as it can move more air; for example, a 36 or 44-inch diameter fan can cool a 225-square-foot room. As it is summer, set the fan to a counterclockwise rotation as this will create a downdraft for a cool breeze. In winter, set it to clockwise and at a low speed so that it moves warm air from the ceiling to other parts of the room. When buying, check the fan’s noise rating. A more expensive but quiet fan will be more comfortable to use and will likely be more durable. You may also consider installing window fans which are also effective at cooling.
4. Smart Thermostat
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 53% of an average household’s energy-related expenses go towards heating and cooling. A smart thermostat help to reduce wastage. The agency estimates that households with a high heating and cooling bill could save $100 annually if they used a smart thermostat. A smart thermostat is equipped with sensors that enable it to adjust the temperature based on your daily habits. Energy Star-certified thermostats are proven to be capable of delivering energy savings, providing information regarding HVAC usage, and entering a low power standby state when inactive.
5. A Modern HVAC
If you are running an HVAC over ten years old, you should consider replacing it with an Energy Star-certified model, as this could reduce your heating and cooling bill by around 20%. Energy Star models have a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating of 14.5 and above and an Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) of 11.0 for single models. For split models, the EER is 12.0. Installing certified devices can also bring savings in the form of rebates and tax credits.
If you do not know the state of your air conditioning unit, an HVAC inspection by a qualified professional will advise you on whether you should make a change. An air conditioning inspection can also help uncover issues with your unit, such as leaks in the ducts or joints. These problems and others can cause inefficiencies and energy wastage leading to higher heating and cooling bills. Moreover, problems such as dust, pollen, mold, etc., that can reduce the air quality of a home can be rectified. According to Fixr, most homeowners pay approximately $7,000 for a 16 SEER central HVAC with existing ducts.
6. Planting Trees for a Cooler Home
Planting a shade tree in your yard will help keep your property cooler. According to the Chicago Park District, some recommended shade trees include the red maple hybrid, common hackberry, ginkgo, sugar maple, Kentucky coffeetree, red oak, and American linden. Call tree service experts to get more ideas on what plants work best in your area. According to the DOE, a tree’s shade and the process of evapotranspiration can cool down surrounding air temperatures by as much as 6° F. Temperatures beneath trees can be 25°F cooler than air temperatures over blacktop. Moreover, trees, shrubs, and other groundcover plants reduce heat radiation and cool the air before it reaches the home. Trees and other plants can also shade a patio, sidewalk, or driveway. Try using a lattice or trellis to grow vines that can shade a patio or the house’s walls. If you think maintaining the trees and plants will be too time-consuming and difficult, contact a local tree trimming service.
While planting trees is an excellent idea for creating shade, it will take quite some time before they mature enough to provide that benefit. Instead, you can rely on artificial structures such as gazebos and pergolas to make your outdoor living space more enjoyable. The deck area can also be shaded without breaking the bank using a fabric canopy or awning. Shade sails are versatile enough to provide shade to your patio or backyard. If a fabric canopy is not to your liking, a layer of twig or bamboo over beams can make for a beautiful natural shade overhang. Perhaps an oversized umbrella can do the trick if you need something moveable. Or, for more premium hardscaping, build an elegant and luxurious loggia. Hardscaping brings a whole host of versatile options to cool your home. Even a tall fence can work wonders for your property’s temperatures.
8. Attic Insulation
Adding adequate attic insulation can bring down your energy bills and prolong your roof’s lifespan by preventing ice damming and roof deck/shingle rot. Adding insulation to the attic reduces the work your HVAC system has to do to maintain a comfortable temperature. The outlying area of the house, such as attics, basements, and garages, are all places where air transfer can occur. Adding insulation will reduce your home’s heat gain in summer. According to the DOE, a Chicago un-insulated attic needs an R-value of 49 – 60. If there are areas with 3 – 4 inches of existing insulation, you require an R-value of 38 – 49.
These figures are simply guidelines, so you should speak to your roofer or insulation contractor to know what your home requires. As for insulation flooring, the DOE recommends an R-value of 25-30. The EPA estimates homeowners can save 15% on heating and cooling costs or 11% of total energy costs through air sealing their houses and adding insulation in attics, floors above crawl spaces, and basement rim joists. According to Bob Vila, the national average attic insulation cost is $2,500.
9. Upgrade Your Window Treatments
Window treatments will cool your home and increase its visual appeal. According to the DOE, 25% – 30% of a home’s heating and cooling energy usage is due to heat gain and heat loss through windows. In summer, insulated cellular shades can reduce the heat coming through the windows by up to 60%. Solar heat gain can be reduced to a mere 20% if installed with a tight fit. They work well in winter too, reducing heat loss by 40%. Even curtains can help in summer. Medium color draperies with white plastic backing have been shown to reduce heat gain by up to 33%. Another option is window awning which can reduce heat gain by up to 65% for South facing windows and 77% on windows facing West. Conventional windows allow an estimated 75% of the sun’s heat into a home. Replace your windows with Energy Star-certified windows to reduce heat gain and save $125 to $465 on your heating and cooling bill. Speak to a window treatment professional to learn more.
It’s summer, and many homeowners are also looking to spruce up their homes. However, before embarking on a home improvement project, seek out advice from a professional or do some thorough research. That way, you can get a good idea of a project’s benefits and great results. Shop around too to get multiple quotes before committing to a contractor. If you need to keep your Chicago house cool, contact us today.