Phoenix Homeowners: Here’s How to Keep Your House Cool

by Lee Wallender

You’re no stranger to extreme heat! Sweeten shares top tips to keep a house cool (and save money) during the summer

Cooling house Phoenix(Above) Design by Phoenix-based designer Ernesto Garcia

Phoenix is a favorite place to live because of the area’s favorable weather. Precipitation is low, the sun is strong, and temperatures are high. But sometimes, the temperatures run a bit too high for comfort.

Each year, on average, Phoenix’s temperature exceeds 100 degrees on 92 days. Knowing this, Sweeten wrote a homeowner’s guide on how to keep your house cool in those blazing months!

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free.

Choose the best HVAC system

Air-conditioning is a fact of life in Phoenix and the entire Valley of the Sun metro area. Passive cooling methods are crucial for maintaining a cooler home in Phoenix. But it is an inescapable fact that your home needs A/C. Choose the best possible A/C within your budget:

  • Check the SEER ratings. SEER is short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. This rating is listed on a yellow sticker on every central air conditioning unit. Look for high SEER numbers of at least 13. Maximize your cooling efficiency with SEER ratings of 15 to 17.
  • Properly size your A/C unit. Units incapable of handling your home’s heat will become taxed. Plus, your home will never cool down enough. Units that are larger than needed are an unnecessary expense.
  • Central A/C units are popular. But they are no longer the only game in town. Ductless mini-split units, one per room, are less expensive. Also, they do not require ductwork.
  • Look at heat pumps. Despite their name, heat pumps cool homes just like air-conditioners. The difference is that they can be reversed to heat up the home.
  • Your general contractor can discuss with you the many factors that play into the choice. These factors: building materials, type and extent of insulation, and number of windows.

Install insulated ductwork

You wouldn’t want a water pipe riddled with holes. You would barely get any water out of it. In the same sense, the HVAC ductwork in your attic is riddled with holes when it’s uninsulated.

Cool air expensively generated by your air conditioner can be lost in your attic. The cool air begins at the A/C. It runs through your hot attic in basic sheet metal ducts. The cool air warms up. By the time the air reaches the rooms, it is warmer than it should be.

There are many insulated ductwork options you can discuss with your contractor. Sheet metal ducts with fibrous glass insulation liner or wrap are a common choice. Or fibrous glass insulation boards can be added to ducts and plenums.

Buy “cooler” lighting and appliances

Lights can give off an enormous amount of heat. One halogen recessed light can raise the temperature of a 64-square-foot space by 15 degrees F in about one hour. Multiplied many times over, an array of these lights can warm up a house. Use cooler LED lights. Fluorescent lights can be used in laundry rooms or work areas.

Also, shop for efficient appliances. Refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, and dryers all produce heat. Purchase better-designed appliances that give off less heat.

Choose a “cool” roof

If you have ever tried to walk on a dark roof in the summer, you will know how hot they can get. A hot roof will transmit heat into the attic. Insulation in the attic will slow some of the heat, but some heat will still enter the home.

“Cool roof” is a general term for any roof with qualities that keep heat out of your house. At a minimum, a cool roof can be a light-colored roof. But a white- or light-colored roof can still absorb up to 70-percent of solar radiation. Look instead for specially coated shingles that contain glass and aluminum particles. Even traditional terra cotta roof tiles are considered to be a cool roofing material.

Check out cool roof ratings from the non-profit Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC). The basic ratings are similar to the familiar EnergyStar ratings for appliances.

Install high vents or a whole-house fan

Desert temperatures that soar during the day drop equally during the night. Phoenix’s night-time temperatures are often half that of daytime temperatures. Use this to your advantage with night-flushing.

Night-flushing means to open up your house as much as possible during the night to flush out built-up heat. Vents installed high up on the walls can help with this. Whole-house fans pull air through open windows and send it out through the roof. This also ventilates the attic. You don’t necessarily need to install new ductwork, either. Speak to a contractor about modifying existing HVAC ductwork for a whole-house fan.

Landscaping for a cooler home

The City of Phoenix has an ongoing effort to cool the city—and you can do it at home, too. Phoenix’s Tree and Shade Master Plan aims to shade at least 25-percent of the city. Speak to your contractor about adding large shade trees like eucalyptus, elm, pine, ash, or pecan. Even trees with less foliage like olives, palms, and citrus can keep a home cooler.

Paint the home in light colors

There is a reason for all of those different shades of beige on homes around Phoenix: it’s cooler. Upwards of 90-percent of the sun’s radiant energy can be absorbed by dark paint colors. Conversely, lighter colors do an excellent job of repelling radiant energy.

If beige isn’t your thing, you’ll find a wide range of other light colors that block the heat. Light-gray, cream, blue, ivory, and of course, white, are perfect for holding back the heat.

Take these steps to help keep your house cool while being more efficient for the planet and your wallet. Happy (green) renovating!

Remodeling isn’t just for new homes: See Sweeten’s guide to renovating for resale. (You’ll thank us when you sell!)

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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