Frustrating 1952 HOUSE!!!

alouwomackJuly 13, 2011

This is the 3rd consecutive HOT Texas summer we've spent so far in our home (built in 1952; 1,600 sqft). The pier & beam house is an "L-shaped" ranch style (mostly brick/stone) and has never cooled or heated properly since we've lived in it. The inside Heat/AC unit is positioned towards one "end" of the home in a small hallway closet surrounded by our 3 bedrooms and 1 small bathroom. At the other end of the "L" shape is our den, laundry room, and 2nd bathroom. The areas in between include our kitchen, dining room, and front living room. The house gets hotter the farther away from the unit you get.

Just before our current heat wave hit, we decided to bite the bullet and get some work done to the AC--obviously in hopes that it would make our home COOL this summer. We have the expensive electric bills each time this why not make it worthy and have a COOL house?!!?!!

Well, we're about 6 weeks past the repairs and it is barely better than before. We had the coil in the furnace unit replaced (leaking and dirty); the furnace closet properly sealed inside and more ventilation area added; and all the air ducts redone. Also, something on the outside unit was clogged?...and thus fixed after I complained at the lack of improvement with the initial repairs.

From May 26 to June 26, we used almost 2,800kWH of electricity......our unit can not maintain a cooler temperature of 79 to 82 degrees (depending on how hot it gets outside). Also, this is the thermostat reading located in the bedroom hallway...the cooler part of the home! I'm dreading our next electric bill...its been hotter since that meter was read last! It seems like the unit never shuts off!

I am no energy consultant/expert here, but we're bound to be experiencing INSULATION problems, or the lack there of!!! Can or would anyone please direct me in the right direction to tackle our HOT issue? Thank you!!! AMBER

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Get a certified energy rater to evaluate the whole house and identify the low-hanging fruit for you. Check in to local programs that might pay for the energy rater.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 2:33PM
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Thank you Ionized!

Do you know how to find such an energy rater or go about checking into local programs available in one's area? (I'm in Fort Worth, TX.)

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 3:55PM
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You can find a rater at

Finding local programs will involve some leg work. Utilities sometimes have them or participate in them. Check the web site of your local electrical power provider. You might find listings of local incentive programs at resnet, or Google might be your best friend. There are often sizable groups of environmentally-active people in communities. These zealot organizations might be able to steer you towards energy-efficiency programs. I can not say the best way to find them. They are often into solar or wind power so that might help.

Your Texas Land Grant University, whatever that is called, will probably be a good source of energy efficiency programs. The local energy raters themselves should know what incentives might be available. Incentives vary from tax rebates and deductions to low interest rate loans.

Read up on the energy rating/evaluation process, find 3 raters and call them. They can't tell you what to do with your home without doing a full evaluation on site, but ask them what they might expect you should do with your house after a brief description of the building. They should be able to tell you what might be typical of that kind of home. Just do not expect it to come out exactly that way. Ask all of them what incentives are available. This will be your phone interview. Choose one based on that.

Ah, this might be a good link.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 4:40PM
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There are 2 sides to the heating/cooling equations:

1) Cooling the air. You've addressed that already, at least partially. If the air coming out of the farthest vent is significantly warmer or lower flow than the closer vents, the problem isn't fixed yet.

2) Keeping the cool air in your home. Doesn't sound like you addressed that yet. You can pump in all the cool air you want, but if it is escaping rapidly, it won't keep the house cool. Make sure windows, doors, outlets etc are air tight. A common leak is around ceiling lighting. Is the attic vented? How is it insulated? Are you pulling the shades on sunny windows during the day? A lot of heat is getting in somewhere. If you aren't comfortable tracking it down yourself, an energy audit will help you do it.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 12:08PM
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I like all the ideas presented. Something we did to help maintain the envelope of cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter in our home was to avoid opening the front and back door, which open directly into the living room. Instead, we use our small laundry room as our "air lock". We enter the house from the garage, pass through the laundry room, through another closed door to the kitchen. Therefore the concentration of air transfer is in the small laundry room, not the whole house.

I have books from back in the 1970's for building or creating an air-lock on your front door to improve energy efficiency. It's as sound an idea now as it was then.

I made insulated curtains (two layers thick) to go over our front and back door - even though they are double-paned windows in them AND covered by a vented storm door. Our front entrance area would gain 5-10 degrees just from the reflection of sun off the white garage doors of the home across the street coming through the glass on the door and the side-light.

Do you still use a lot of incandescent lights? They put out an awful lot of heat.

We installed UV blocking screens on the west side of our home, added awnings, and screen the deck from the harsh west sun exposure with vines on trellises. The more layers of protection you can add, the better. Just as having a well-insulated attic doesn't quite get the job done if you have old, drafty windows. BTW - Make sure the windows are locked, not just shut. Those locks make the window much tighter than just shutting them.

Another thing we do is to leave one garage door open about 6-inches (we place a wire grid over the opening to keep "pests" out. Open the back door so air can breeze through the storm door. We also move the trap door off the attic opening so we also move a lot of air through the roof vents. We're on our 16th day 100-degrees F or over....

How much humidity are you holding in your house? Do you run a dehumidifier to take some of the stress off your air conditioner? Especially if you have an older, less efficient air conditioner.

Is your air conditioner unit sitting in the sun?

Do you clean your outside condenser regularly. When we have cottonwood trees shedding their seeds, we have to clean our condenser every few days.

Last year we attached a Cool-n-Save Air Conditioner mister onto our unit. We used 1186 KWH May/June 2010 with the mister, and 1309 KWH May/June 2011, so the mister may have saved around 10%. Our problem with the mister was too much wind blowing the mist. But it might be something that you would benefit from, and/or shading your unit.

If you've never read the book, "Movable Insulation" by William K. Langdon (check your local library for a copy) it has some great ideas in it. Although we have better "stuff" to use for insulating than when the book was published in 1980, the ideas are still great.


Here is a link that might be useful: Cool-n-Save

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 5:41PM
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Thank you all for your responses! I really appreciate all the time you've each taken in responding. I can't chat long now...I'll update more later. There are so many factors to address, I do believe it is best for us to have an energy audit done. I'm sure it will be disappointing news but I'd like a list of things we can change to make our situation better.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 2:15PM
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