Let’s be honest—when it comes to weather, we have it fairly easy here in Northern California. Summers are gloriously warm and dry and, while the winters are a little soggy and chilly, we’re pretty lucky that “cold” to us means anything below 60 degrees.
The one thing that can take some getting used to, though, is the range of temperatures we experience in a given day. Summer mornings and evenings can be dramatically cooler than our scorching days. After all, our fashion claim to fame here in NorCal is “light layers.”
While we’re certainly no strangers to layering ourselves up to keep warm, many Northern Californians may not be as familiar with the concept of layering up to keep cool. I’m not talking about clothes anymore—I’m talking about homes! That’s right, proper home insulation can actually help keep your home cool during the peak summer months. Let’s take a look at some summer insulation benefits and advantages for Northern California homes.
The Cool Summer Benefits of Insulation
Just as insulation prevents warm air from escaping our homes in the winter, it prevents outdoor heat from entering our home in the summer. Thanks to the laws of thermodynamics (stay with me here), hot air wants to get where cooler air is. So, if it’s a scorching 95 degrees outside, but a comfortable 75 degrees in your home, you can bet that the hot air is going to do its darndest to get in. Insulation, though, effectively prevents the conduction of heat.
Making sure your home is properly and adequately insulated is the single best thing you can do to reduce your energy bills and increase cooling efficiency.
If your home isn’t properly insulated, that sneaky warm air inconspicuously entering your home changes the internal temperature, forcing your HVAC to work a lot harder to keep the house cool—especially if your HVAC system is located in your uninsulated attic. If this is the case, your HVAC has to work extra hard to keep cool in a steamy attic and your home ends up suffering from major cooling loss. Making sure your home is properly and adequately insulated is the single best thing you can do to reduce your energy bills and increase cooling efficiency.
A good insulation job can reduce the cost of heating and cooling by a whopping 40%.
While it can seem cost prohibitive to install, replace, or upgrade insulation, the return on investment will be well worth it. A good insulation job can reduce the cost of heating and cooling by a whopping 40%. Of course, in the spirit of cooling efficiency and energy conservation, you’ll also want to consider home window replacement to ensure that no outside air is entering through improper seals and thin single panes. Together, these home improvements can dramatically extend the lifespan of your HVAC system and save you big when it comes to summer cooling costs.
Getting Summer Benefits: Where Insulation Should Be Installed
I’ve done a lot of insulation inspections in homes all around Northern California and I often get asked if insulation should be ripped out and completely replaced. If the insulation is fiberglass, it typically doesn’t need replacing; if it’s in good shape, it can last up to 100 years if properly installed. In that case, I just make sure the attic is insulated and leave things as they are.
If a house is insulated with loose insulation like cellulose or vermiculite, or some key parts of the house aren’t insulated, though, work may need to be done to increase the cooling efficiency and energy savings in your home. You could be making extra work for your HVAC system if you have aging insulation—or you don’t have any insulation—in the following places in your house:
- The attic or ceiling: An uninsulated attic in the summer is like an oven heating up the rest of your home from the top down. Insulation can reduce how hot it gets up there but, more importantly, it prevents heat from spreading to the rest of the house, resulting in a 20-60% energy savings.
- Interior walls: Keeping hot air from transferring between rooms helps maintain a cooler internal temperature throughout your house and your HVAC system won’t have to work nearly as hard to keep your house cool.
- Around ductwork: If your ducts pass through a hot attic or an outside wall, you’re losing precious cool air. Insulating your ductwork can help prevent this and significantly lessen the load on your HVAC unit, which equates to lower energy bills.
- Garage walls: Similar to attics, uninsulated attached garages heat up like crazy in the summer—and the heat can transfer into your home. While you can certainly insulate all four walls of a garage, even just insulating the wall shared with your interior living spaces can make a big difference in your home’s overall efficiency.
- Windows and doors: Fixing or filling any cracks and spaces between walls and window or door frames can prevent hot summer air from heating up your cool home oasis. You’ll also want to consider installing vinyl windows to achieve the tightest seal possible.
When installing new insulation in a home, the type of insulation I use depends on the area of the house I’m insulating. Typically, spray foam is best for attics, while dense-packed cellulose is better for walls. I always make sure, though, that the insulation I use has a high R-value, as the higher the value, the more insulating power it has. In Northern California, recommended R-values range between 30-60, depending on your geographical location.
Proper installation is also essential to ensure achieving maximum cooling efficiency and energy savings in your home after adding insulation; it’s vital to hand the job over to an experienced professional.
Proper installation is also essential to ensure achieving maximum cooling efficiency and energy savings in your home after adding insulation; it’s vital to hand the job over to an experienced professional. They’ll be able to inspect your insulation and determine where new insulation needs to be installed—and what type is most suitable for the job. That way, you can beat the summer heat in Northern California and keep your AC in good shape all summer long.
Having your home properly insulated will give your HVAC (and your wallet) a break this summer while still keeping your home nice and cool. Contact the experienced professionals at Bell Brothers for a free home insulation inspection today.
Image courtesy Unsplash user Remy_Loz