Now that we’re in the middle of another Texas summer, and the mercury is pushing the 100-degree mark, it’s time for a short multiple-choice quiz.
Question No. 1 (and only): What’s the best and most efficient way to keep comfortable on a sultry summer day?
A. Sit by the Spillway and wait for that cool, refreshing breeze to sweep across White Rock Lake.
B. Answer the neighborhood ice cream man’s incessant musical plea for business.
C. Open the refrigerator door, pull up a lawn chair and relax.
D. None of the above.
Answer: D. Though all might be nice ways to spend a summer afternoon, they’re not very efficient in the long run. If you want efficiency, you have to attack the source of the problem: Heat seeping into our houses through small cracks and openings.
Weatherproofing a house – whether it be from heat, rain or cold – is a fairly simple process. By following a few easy procedures now, we’ll be much more comfortable in the months to come – and substantially rewarded, thanks to a conspicuous decrease in utility bills.
The Problem In The Soil
Many neighborhood homes are bothered by foundation trouble, due to the shifting nature of the soil in this area. Trouble is evidenced by windows that don’t open or close quite right, small cracks in walls that let outside air in, hardwood floors that squeak and give a bit too much, and the bevy of “home-lifter” trucks that can be seen prospecting through the area.
Short of hiring one of the “home-lifters,” there are several steps to combat minor shifts in a home’s structure and seal it from the elements.
- Inspect each opening to the home – every window, door, vent and pipe fitting. Be sure each seals properly. If necessary, add caulking around windows and pipes and weather-stripping around doors.
- Check ceilings over corners of the home for small cracks. Though small, the cracks can let a great deal of cool air out and hot air in. These cracks usually can be remedied by thoroughly watering the soil surrounding the foundation, allowing the house to “settle” to its original position.
Remember, a crack on one side of a room inside means you need to water the foundation on the opposite outside wall (if the crack is on the east side, water the west side; if it’s on the south, water the north).
Simple Maintenance Helps
Even if the foundation is solid as a rock, a few regular chores will keep a home energy efficient. A little time invested now is worth the trouble it will save later.
- Keep a clean air filter in the heating/cooling system. Wash permanent filters, or replace disposable ones monthly. Clean all outlet and intake vents once a season.
- Use ceiling fans properly. Most have a reversible motor to ensure top efficiency. Remember, the blades should go clockwise in summer, counter-clockwise in winter. If you don’t feel a breeze when the fan is on high speed, the fan is in winter mode.
- Be sure your house is properly insulated. An R-value (the relative “strength” of the insulation) of R-30 to R-38 in the attic and R-19 in crawl spaces is recommended for Dallas homes. That translates to nine to 12 inches of standard, quality insulation in the attic and 6.25 inches in the crawl spaces.
Once the seasonal chores are completed, and the house is sealed up nice and tight, catch that breeze at White Rock. Or visit the ice cream man’s truck.