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75+ Ways To Lower Cooling Costs Without Upgrading HVAC System

And Many Ways Lower Heating Costs Too.

Part 4 of 5

photo of new home

Image Source: ShutterStock

This is Part 4 of our 5-Part Article describing 75+ Ways to Lower Cooling Costs Without Upgrading Your HVAC System (and many lower heating costs too).  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally, we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane),  Ameristar (owned by American Standard), and Coleman HVAC (same as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full-service plumbing maintenance, repairs, and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, TX; Murphy, TX; and Wylie, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin County TX with no additional travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience.

Lower Cooling Costs By Adding Solar Window-Film In DFW

Click On Image To: View Product, Read Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

First, Some Basics About Low-E Windows:

photo of home windows from outside

Image Source: Shutterstock

This Section Is About Low-E Windows Because It Helps Explain:

 How Solar-Window Films Work

And Why Solar Film Is Installed On The Outside of The Window In Southern Climates

A Window’s Low-E Coating: 

  • A Window’s Low-E coating blocks certain wavelengths of sunlight.
  • It allows the sun’s light through.
  • It blocks the sun’s heat.
  • The Low-E coating is located between the glass panes — to protect it from being easily scratched.
  • In Warm Climates (like DFW) — the Low-E coating is applied to the glass facing outdoors.
  • This reduces heat gain into the home. *2
  • In Cold Climates — Low-E coating is applied to the facing indoors.
  • This reduces heat loss from the home. *2

Click Here To See A Diagram Of A Low-E Window Glass Pane: Diagram Of Low-E Window

Note: Diagram Shows A Cold Climate Glass — The window is reversed for a warm climate.

A Replacement Window May Offer These Features As “Included” Or “Optional” 

Argon Gas:

  • Argon gas is denser than air.
  • Argon gas is added between the 2 panes of glass.
  • Heat & cold pass through Argon Gas filled glass more slowly than glass with air between the panes.

Tinted Glass:

  • The tint enhances the window’s ability to block sunlight’s heat.
  • Tinted windows often have a Visual Transmittance (VT) of Light = 60%
  • Clear glass VT = 90%.

Tempered Glass:   

How Glass Is Tempered:

  • Tempered glass starts out as regular glass.
  • The surfaces of the glass are heated in a furnace — to around 1,115F degrees.
  • Then, the hot glass is cooled rapidly by a blast of cold air for 3–10 seconds.
  • Tempered glass is stronger than regular glass.
  • Tempered Glass Breaking Stress = 10,000 Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI). *4
  • Regular Glass Breaking Stress = 1,000 Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI). **
  • If regular glass breaks — it shatters into sharp shards of glass.
  • If tempered glass breaks — it breaks small, relatively safe cubes.
  • If broken, the cubes interlock with neighboring cubes.
  • This keeps tempered glass from falling apart as easily as regular glass.

For Homes:  The 2018 International Building Code Requires Tempered Glass At Any Location Where These 4 Criteria Apply:

  • Glass is more than 9 square feet in size.
  • The top of the glass is more than 36 inches above the floor
  • The bottom of the glass is less than 18 inches above the floor.
  • There’s a 36-inch walkway alongside the glass.

Note: Tempered glass Is Not Required unless all 4 conditions apply.

Additional Locations Where Tempered Glass Is Required:

  • Near stairs
  • In bathrooms
  • Near swimming pool
  • Doors With Glass — anywhere in the home.
  • Windows or sidelights within 24 inches of a door must

Laminated Glass:

broken laminated glass

Image Source: Shutterstock

Shown: Broken Laminated Glass.  Because It’s Tempered Glass — It Breaks Into Cubes.

Because It’s Laminated — The Broken Cubes Stay Mostly In Place (they’re stuck to vinyl between the 2 layers of glass)

  • Laminated glass starts out as 2 pieces of tempered glass.
  • There is a layer of vinyl added between the 2 glass layers.
  • If broken, laminated-glass stays (mostly to completely) together.
  • The cubes of broken glass stick to the vinyl and don’t typically fall.
  • Automobiles have laminated glass windshields.
  • Automobiles have side & rear glass made of “Tempered Glass: **3

** Source: http://www.glassdynamicsllc.com/temperedglass.html

**3 Source: https://www.scienceabc.com/eyeopeners/tempered-laminated-car-windshield-glass-why-break-such-small-pieces.html

*1 Source: http://www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/module-2/radiation-sun.php

*2 Source: https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/products/how-its-made-low-e-glass_o

Lower Cooling Costs By Adding Window-Film To Existing Windows

In Warm Climates (like DFW) — Window Film Is Installed On The Window’s Exterior — To Block Heat From Entering The Home

There Are Window-Films Specifically Made For Exterior Applications

(One Film Shown Below)

When Installing Window Film:

  • In Warm Climates (like DFW) — Window Film is applied to the outside of the window.
  • This keeps heat from entering the home.
  • The measure of effectiveness is Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC).
  • In Cold Climates — Window Film is applied to the inside of the window.
  • This keeps heat from leaving the home. *2
  • The measure of effectiveness is U-Value.

Source: https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/products/how-its-made-low-e-glass_o

A Word Of Caution About Adding Window Film To The Inside Of Double-Pane Glass In Warm Climates (like DFW)

  • In Warm Climates:  Window film applied on the inside of the window — causes tremendous heat build-up between the 2 glass panes.
  • Excess Heat can break the seal between the panes.
  • If this occurs, the glass leaks moisture between the panes, fogs up, and must be replaced.

TIP: Before installing any window film — check your windows’ warranty.  Some windows’ warranty may be voided if solar film is added).

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link 

SHOWN: Exterior Window Film

Click On Image To: View Product, Read Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

The Amazon.com Listing For Silver 15 Exterior Window Film States:

  • Rejects 99% UV Rays (that fade fabrics and wood floors).
  • Rejects 79% of Solar/Sun Energy (the sun’s heat).   Its Solar Heat Gain Coefficient = 21 (21% of the sun’s heat passes through) — for the Silver15 — which is very dark. 
  • This BDF exterior window film is a perfect solution for the dual-pane windows — when properly installed on the outside of the window

“Silver 15 Exterior Window Film is silver inside & outside.  Silver 15 allows only 15% of outdoor light inside the home (15% = Very Dark).   The reflectivity of the film blocks heat before passing through windows.   During the daytime, Silver 15 gives the window a mirror-like appearance outdoors.   During the nighttime, people can see inside your home.”   This product is also available In Several Shades.

Copy The Link Below Into Your Browser To See How Different Shades Of Window Films — Affect The View Through The Window

(Then scroll down — Image on the left).

BDF EXS35 EXTERIOR Window Film High Heat Rejection Silver 35 (Medium)

Window Film Notes:

  • You will certainly lower cooling costs with window-film.
  • Applying window film correctly is difficult.  Air bubbles must be moved to the edge to get rid of them.
  • Window films darken the home’s interior.
  • In DFW, window films work best for west-facing windows — and help make the room more comfortable during the afternoon & evening.

With Low-E Glass Windows You’ll Lower Cooling Costs Less (Than With Original Windows)

  • Adding window-film to Low-E glass will lower cooling costs the least. 
  • During Summer: Low E glass blocks much of the sun’s heat during summer.
  • During winter: Low E helps keep warmth inside the home.
  • Building Code In Texas requires Replacement Windows must be Low-E.

In Warm ClimatesWindows are rated by their Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC).

SHGC measures the window’s ability to keep heat from entering the home.

Example: SHGC= 0.6 means that 60% of the sun’s heat passes through the glass.

Note: We could not find a formula to convert SHGC to R-Value.

AND How To Lower Cooling Costs By Adding Window-Film To Existing Windows

DFW Homes’ Original Metal Windows:

  • SHGC: = .71 ***  71% of the sun’s heat passes through the window.
  • WITH WINDOW FILM ADDED: SHGC as low as .55.   
  • With window-film added — the amount of the sun’s heat coming through the window drops from 71% to as low as 55%.
  • SHGC varies based on how dark the window-film is.   The darker the film, the lower the SHGC.

Double-Pane Glass (not Low-E): 

  • SHGC = .63
  • WITH WINDOW FILM ADDED: SHGC = .45

Low-E + Argon-Gas Glass.

  • SHGC = .50  *4
  • WITH WINDOW FILM ADDED: SHGC = as low as .20
  • SHGC varies based on how dark the window-film is.   The darker the film, the lower the SHGC.

*** Source: https://www.greenbuildermedia.com/buildingscience/window-film-a-cost-effective-window-retrofit

*4 Source: https://www.efficientwindows.org/gtypes-2lowe/

In Cold ClimatesWindows Are Rated By U-Value.

U-Value indicates the window’s ability to keep heat from leaving the home.

The R-Value Of Original (Single-Pane Glass + Uninsulated Metal Frame) Windows Found In Most Older DFW Homes:

NOTE: With U-Value — we can compute a window’s R-Value (shown just below)

  • Original Windows (described above) Have a U-Value of 1.30.  ** 
  • R-Value = 1 Divided By The U-Value: 1/1.30 = .77 **
  • R-Value= .77 (less than 1)

Compared To:

  • Low-E + Argon-Gas Glass & Uninsulated Vinyl frame.  Have a U-Value of .40.
  • R-Value: 1/.40 = 2.5 (2-1/2 times the insulating value).

** Source: https://www.windowworldmn.com/blog/entryid/69/understanding-r-values-and-u-values-of-windows

These R-Values Are Required By Texas Building Code For Newly Built DFW Homes– For Attic & Wall Insulation:

  • R-38:  Attic R-Value in a newly built home — as required by Texas Building Code.
  • R-15:  Exterior Wall R-Value in a newly built home — as required by Texas Building Code.

Here’s A Link For Modestly Priced (Vinyl, Low-E + Argon Gass) Windows:  Window World Of Dallas

Note: At the time this article was written, a Window World window’s price was $310.00 — and includes installation.

Window World’s Website States:

“ENERGYSTAR® Qualified SolarZone™ Vinyl Windows include:

  • UV-filtering Low-E Glass
  • Insulating Argon Gas between the glass panes
  • A warm-edge spacer between the glass and the frame.”

NOTES:

  • Al’s has no affiliation with Window World Of Dallas.  We are not paid for the link above.  It’s provided as a courtesy to our readers.
  • Al’s does not endorse any brand of replacement windows — only because we don’t have first-hand knowledge of all brands.

Common R-Values For New, Replacement Vinyl Windows:

  • R-2.5: Low-E, Double-Pane Glass **
  • R-2.0: Non-Insulated, vinyl window’s FRAME. ***
  • R-2.3: Insulated vinyl window’s FRAME. ***
  • The frame represents only a small portion of the window’s surface area.

** Source (Glass): https://www.allweatherwindows.com/the-pros/architect/glass-performance-chart/

*** Source (Frame): http://air-titewindows.com/portfolio/faqs/

Lower Cooling Costs (and heating) By Adding 

Insulating / Thermal Curtains Provide Up To An R-5 Insulating Value.

 Click On Image To: View Product, Read Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

Shown: Insulated Curtain Valance

 Click On Image To: View Product, Read Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

Shown: Insulated Curtain / Drapery Panels

How To Lower Cooling Costs With Typical Thermal Drapes

Most Have An R-Value Of R-3 — R-5.  **

** Source:  https://homereference.net/do-thermal-curtains-work/

  • Insulating draperies lower cooling and heating bills.  They also make the house quieter.
  • If you have original, single-pane glass & metal windows —
  • If you have Low-E, Vinyl Windows — you’ll get the least benefit from insulated curtains.

To Be The Most Effective Insulating Draperies Must:

  • Must reach the floor.
  • Must reach the ceiling (or you can add an insulated valance above them).
  • An 8- foot ceiling requires 96″ curtains -OR – 84″ curtains (the typical length) + a valance at least 12″ long.
  • If draperies don’t reach both the floor and ceiling — cold air against the window falls to the floor.
  • Then, warm air (near the ceiling) is pulled downward across the window.
  • You won’t likely find an R-Value rating shown for insulating curtains.
  • If labeled as insulating — they likely provide R-3 TO R-5 insulating value.
  • Higher-priced curtains will likely have a heavier fabric — and may provide a higher R-Value.

During DFW Summer:

  • Lower cooling costs with insulating draperies on west-facing windows (hot afternoon & evening sun) & south-facing windows (sunny whenever the sun is shining). 
  • There is less benefit on east-facing windows (cooler morning sun). 
  • Close draperies while the sun is shining through the window.  
  • With north-facing windows — no sun shines through them, so no heat from the sun enters the home.  

During DFW Winter:

  • Insulating curtains provide the most benefit on north-facing windows.
  • If curtains are open during the day — close them at sunset.

The Difference Between “Thermal” And “Blackout” Curtains

  • The primary function of thermal curtains is insulating.
  • The primary function of blackout curtains is to block light coming through the windows.

Lower Cooling Costs Attic Insulation

measuring insulation level in attic

Image Source: ShutterStock

Adding attic insulation (as needed) pays for itself in a few years with lowered cooling & heating costs.

Blown attic insulation is quick and easy to add.  Thicker attic insulation makes the house quieter (less outdoor noise coming through ceilings).

During Winter: Heat inside the home rises up into the attic (heat travels toward cold).

During Summer: Heat inside the attic pushes down into the home (heat travels toward cold).

Typical Texas Homes Insulation Levels — Or Became Required By Building Code:

           Attic Insulation                                 Wall Insulation

  • Until 1965:      none                                      none
  • 1965-1970: R-13 (3.5″ BATT)             R-6 (2″ BATT)
  • 1970’s:         R-19 (6  ″ BATT)              R-6  (2″ BATT)     *3
  • 1980’s:        R-30 (9″  Blown)              R-13 (3.5″ BATT) *4
  • 2014:           R-38 (15″ Blown)              R-15                         *5
  • *3 Source: https://snuggpro.com/blog/item/many-homes-built-prior-to-1980-were-built-without-insulation-in-the-walls
  • *4 Source: https://www.jlconline.com/how-to/insulation-code-change_o
  • *5 As required by the 2012 Edition of the International Building Code (IBC)
  • When outdoor temperature = 96 degrees — DFW attic temperature = 155 degrees. *1
  • DFW’s average high = 96 in July & August. *5
  • DFW’s record high = 113 (June 26 & 27, 1980). *5
  • In a poorly insulated DFW attic (< R-14 insulation) — summer heat-gain through ceilings = 30%+ of cooling cost. *1
  • In a properly-insulated DFW attic (R-38) —  summer heat-gain through ceilings = 14% of cooling cost. *1
  • Lower cooling bills by 16% with adequate (R-38) attic insulation/

PLUS

  • DFW’s average high = 96 in July & August. *5
  • DFW’s record high = 113 (June 26 & 27, 1980). *5
  • When outdoor temp = 96 degrees — DFW attic temp = 155 degrees. *1
  • The difference between outdoor temp and attic temp — is due to the sun’s radiant-heat entering the attic.  *4
  • The sun’s radiant heat is absorbed by roofing materials — then radiates into attic air.
  • An Attic Radiant-Heat Barrier reflects 82–97% of the sun’s heat from entering the attic. *4
  • A Radian-Heat Barrier lowers DFW attic temperature by up to -30 degrees (depends on the day’s high temp). *4
  • More on Radiant-Heat Barriers Below.

NOTE: You feel the sun’s radiant heat on your skin whenever you’re in the sun.  If you want into the shade — you’re immediately cooler because the sun’s radiant heat is blocked.

*1 Source: http://www.factsfacts.com/MyHomeRepair/ventilation.htm

*3 Source: https://www.greenbuildermedia.com/blog/do-radiant-barriers-really-work

*4 Source: https://www.olympicrestoration.com/attic-insulation/radiant-barriers.html#:~:text=Here%20are%20some%20good%20reasons,much%20as%2030%C2%B0%20F

*5 Source: https://www.weather.gov/fwd/dgr8mxmn

Click Here To Read Our Entire Article: Lower Heating & Cooling Costs With Attic Insulation

TX Building Code Today Requires R-38 Attic Insulation

  • 4-inch batt of attic insulation = R-13.   **
  • 6-inch batt of attic insulation = R-19.
  • Each 1 inch of blown fiberglass insulation = R-3.25.
  • R-38: A 4-inch batt of (existing) fiberglass insulation — PLUS 8 inches of blown fiberglass insulation.
  • R-38: A 6-inch batt of (existing) fiberglass insulation — PLUS 6 inches of blown fiberglass insulation.
  • If there’s No (existing) batt insulation — ADD 11 inches of blown fiberglass insulation for R-38.

** Source: https://www.thespruce.com/size-insulation-for-2×4-and-2×6-walls-1821598

The U. S. Dept. Of Energy (DOE) Recommends R-30 to R-60 for DFW / Climate Zone 3

We Chose The Mid-Point (R-45) Of  The DOE’s Recommendation:

  • R-45: A 4-inch batt of (existing) fiberglass insulation —  PLUS 11 inches of blown fiberglass insulation
  • R-45: A 6-inch batt of (existing) fiberglass insulation — PLUS 9 inches of blown fiberglass insulation
  • If there’s No (existing) batt insulation — ADD 15 inches of blown fiberglass insulation for R-45.

If You Use An Insulating Contractor — going from R-38 to R-45 will cost less than you think.  This is because the contractor’s already set up and working in your attic.

NOTE: Als’ Does Not Provide Insulating Services.

Lower Cooling Costs By Ensuring The Entire Attic Floor’s Covered

If Only 5% Of Your Attic Floor Is Not Covered With Insulation

The R-Value Of The Entire Attic’s Insulation Is Reduced By Up To 1/2!

  • When working in the attic, it’s common for workers to kick insulation out of their way.  You can lower cooling bills substantially by adding attic insulation that was moved aside.

It’s Wise To:

  • Do any work needed in the attic before insulating.
  • After insulating, keep workers out of the attic unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Check to see if they moved insulation once finished.

You Can Check Ceilings’ Temperatures From The Floor — With An Infrared-Thermometer 

You can easily identify where there’s insufficient or missing insulation. 

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

Image Source: Amazon Product Link

 

Click Below To See A Thermal Image Show Where Attic Insulation Is Present, And Where It’s Missing:

Thermal-Image Shows Where Attic Insulation Is Too Low Or Missing

Thermal images are blue/purple where the ceiling is cold.  They’re yellow/orange where the ceiling is hot.

An Attic Radiant-Heat Barrier Lowers Cooling Bills

By Venting Heat Outdoors Near the Peak Of The Roof

attic roof truss

Shown: Attic Without Radiant-Heat Barrier

Image Source: CanStockPhoto

Click Here To See A: Foil Radiant Heat-Barrier Installed.

  • Your home has attic ventilation to help remove heat & humidity.  Attic Ventilation brings outside air in and exhausts the hottest attic air near the peak of the roof.
  • A foil radiant-heat barrier blocks much of the sun’s radiant-heat from reaching the attic floor (then the heat passes through the ceilings into the home).
  • The radiant-heat barrier moves heat upward toward the attic’s ventilation and outdoors.
  • Most DFW homes built since 1960 have roof trusses — you can see them in the photo just above.
  • A radiant-heat foil barrier is stapled to the bottom side of the angled boards.
  • There is a gap at the bottom of the foil radiant-heat barrier.
  • The gap facilitates upward air movement behind the radiant-heat barrier.

The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) performed radiant-heat barrier effectiveness.

  • With R-19 attic insulation — test results showed that a radiant-heat barrier reduces summer heat-gain (through ceilings and into the living space) from 16% to 42%. **
  • Some of the difference in heat-gain is due to the home’s orientation: East/West VS. North/South.

** Source: https://web.ornl.gov/sci/buildings/tools/radiant/rb2/

NOTE: Radiant-Heat Barriers are for Sunbelt-Area homes (the southern 1/4 of the U.S.).

Lower Cooling Costs With Shade Trees

shade trees blocking sun off house

Shade Trees Reduce The Sun’s Radiant-Heat Getting Into Your Home’s Attic

Image Souce: ShutterStock

Shading the attic can reduce the attic temperature by up to -40 degrees.  Shading your roof from west & south-facing sun is the most effective.

  • It’s not necessary for tree limbs to be over the roof — only that they shade some/all of the roof from the sun.
  • It’s likely better that limbs don’t reach over the roof due to possible damage during a storm.
  • If the front of your home faces west or south — your home’s curb appeal may also be improved with well-placed shade trees.

Lower Cooling Costs With Lighter Color Roof Shingles

brick home

Lighter Color Shingles Reflect More Of The Sun’s Heat. 

Darker Shingles Absorb More Of The Sun’s Heat.

Image Source: ShutterStock

Lighter-colored shingles reflect more of the sun’s heat — and lower cooling costs when the sun shines.   This keeps attic temperatures lower and lowers cooling bills.   It’s much like being in the sun dressed in black versus dressed in white.

  • For southern climates like DFW — lighter shingles’ colors reduce cooling bills.
  • The lighter the shingle color — the more it reflects the sun’s heat
  • The darker the shingle color — the more it absorbs the sun’s heat
  • The best shingle colors for reflecting the sun’s heat are; white, almond, light beige, and light gray.
  • Colors that absorb the most of the sun’s heat are; black, dark gray, dark brown, & dark green.

*1 Source: https://www.iko.com/na/residential/homeowner/facts-myths-about-asphalt-shingles/

 

Click Here To See Today’s Most Popular Roof Single Colors: Most Popular Shingle Colors

 

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This was Part 4 of our 5-Part Article describing 75+ Ways to Lower Cooling Costs Without Upgrading Your HVAC System (and many lower heating costs too).  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally, we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (owned by American Standard), and Coleman HVAC (same as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full-service plumbing maintenance, repairs, and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, TX; Murphy, TX; and Wylie, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin County TX with no additional travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience.