Fix-It: Preparing for summer

After experiencing the first of the summer's hot days, it's important to review a few environmentally-sound and money-saving ideas on keeping your home cool.

fan 88 (photo credit: )
fan 88
(photo credit: )
After experiencing the first of the summer's hot days, it's important to review a few environmentally-sound and money-saving ideas on keeping your home cool. As energy costs seem to go higher and higher every month, an investment in insulating your home makes more sense than ever. Your entrances to the outside should have a storm door as well as the traditional "exterior door." Many unscrupulous contractors have used hollow interior lightweight doors on the outside of a building (according to the building code such doors cannot be used on the outside). These will typically not keep the heat out in the summer or heat in in the winter. Only an insulated (metal, aluminum, glass) or solid wood door is suitable for the outside. Besides having a quality door, a storm door on the outside is a great idea. It will create a thermal barrier between the doors (when closed) that will aid tremendously in keeping your interior air in your home. Many storm doors have the option of changing the upper panes quite easily to screening. This will give a degree of privacy when the main door is left open, but let the pleasant spring air through. Such doors are typically made of aluminum or vinyl. Another area of tremendous thermal loss is windows. Adding a thermal curtain between the window and traditional curtains can keep quite a bit of the outside heat from warming your house in the summer (or cold from entering in the winter). These are typically grey or silver on the window side of the curtain and white or beige on the inside, and are available in all fabric and window treatment stores. They are so inexpensive that within a typical house, they will have paid for themselves within the first year in energy savings. Most aluminum and metal windows (even with double glass) let in quite a bit of heat, as the aluminum frame is not insulated. This can be seen very clearly in the winter when they are so cold that water condenses on them; a properly insulated and installed window will not transfer temperature. A top physicist in Jerusalem has double inexpensive single-pane glass windows in his home rather than the more expensive double pane windows; he believes it does a great job and at a much lower price than replacing the existing window. (Not all window openings in ones house can accommodate two full windows). A flat roofed building must have the roof painted or sealed with white roofing paint or roofing material. As a typical flat roof is covered with tar and tar-paper or asphalt paper, these will actually absorb the sun's heat and heat your home. It may be a good idea to keep it black in the winter (and have a warmer house), but in the summer it will bake you. Strategically placed shade trees - a minimum of three large trees around your home, can reduce air conditioning costs up to 30 percent. Evergreens, which keep their leaves or needles yearlong, placed in a planned pattern (typically on the northern side of your home) will serve as windbreaks and save from 10% to 50% in energy used for heating. Before purchasing new trees for your garden, make note of how much direct sunlight will reach it each day and the type of soil (sandy or rocky). Its important to let the expert at your local garden center know this as certain trees thrive in some environments and some will not. "After inspecting the outside of my home according to your previous article, I found the paint peeling on the outside of one of my window frames. What is the best way to repaint my window?" asks Mrs. Jackson of Hadera. The process of cleaning and painting an exterior window is as follows. First scrape any loose paint and wood and remove any dirt. Next, if any patching is needed, an exterior grade PVA wood filler (from Tambour or Neirlat) should be applied and when dry, sanded smooth. This can be repeated a few times to achieve an even surface. After removing any dust or dirt, an exterior primer can be applied (I prefer Bulls Eye 123 - available at all better DIY stores). Four hours later, a coat of your choice of exterior enamel paint can be applied and a final coat the next day. This week's Do It Yourself Resource: This is the official site of the Sacramento Municipal Utility Company and has excellent videos of planting and caring for shade trees. There is also a wealth of information of the benefits of planting trees outside one's home as well as many other energy conservation tips.