Thursday, May 31, 2012

How Mike Holmes Keeps His Cool

As someone who lives in the Southwestern desert in the United States, I can surely appreciate Mike's efforts to cool me down. In this Ottawa Citizen article, he talks about alternative -- greener -- ways to keep the home comfortable during those grueling summer months. All I can say is Mike, just be glad you don't live where I live. But I guess in places where the temperature doesn't rise above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping your blinds closed and putting up awnings helps. My tip -- go hang out at the grocery store in the frozen foods isle. That always seems to work for me.

Use more than an air conditioner to cool your home

Things are heating up, folks.

Most of us love the warmer weather. But as soon as the temperature starts to rise, a lot of us are ready to crank our air conditioners into overdrive.

If you can’t take the heat there are different ways to keep your home cool over the summer. Not only do they work, but they’re also easy on the wallet and the environment — I love it when that happens.

Keeping blinds and curtains closed during the day helps. I encourage everyone to do this. But a lot of heat can get trapped between the blinds and the window. And once the heat is already in your home, cooling things down is an uphill battle. Most homeowners treat the effects of heat. The smart ones stop them before they start.

You want to stop the heat before it comes into your home. Otherwise, half the battle of beating the heat is already lost — before it’s even started. And since the problem starts in nature, let’s look to nature to solve it.

How do we stay cool when we’re outside? We look for shade. What gives us shade? Trees.

Just how trees keep us cool outside, they can help keep us cool inside, too. They provide a natural way to block the higher temperatures from entering our homes. If you’re thinking of doing some landscaping, plant a few extra trees around your house. But don’t plant them near the house itself. The extra foliage will direct water and precipitation to your home’s exterior and roof. This wears down exterior finishes and is an open invitation to leaks.

Another way to block the heat and get some shade is with an awning, an exterior covering that extends from the top of windows. They’re like a visor for your home. Some homes even have a large one that extends across one side of the house — the side that gets the most sun — usually over a patio.

Awnings are an old-school solution that works. They reduce heat gain by about 55 to 77 per cent. They also block UV rays that can damage floors, furniture and finishes. In certain climates, awnings have proved their worth — saving homeowners as much as 25 per cent on their energy bills.

Some awnings are retractable. These are good because they let heat and light come in during the winter. Other ones are stationary and have to be taken down before the colder weather sets in again.

You need to install an awning the proper way. Do it wrong and it can cause a lot of damage. If it falls, it can pull the siding off your home and damage the exterior — not to mention the safety risks of it falling on someone. Just like everything else, you want to get the right pro for the job.

If you’re interested in awnings, contact a company that specializes in them. They’ll be able to recommend the right length, width and material, depending on your home’s specific needs. And they’ll install it the right way. Their employees should have a lot of experience working with these units. Some companies even certify their installers in-house to make sure they know what they’re doing before they show up at your home.

Another way to keep your home cool is insulation. Most people think insulation only helps keep our homes warm during the winter. But it actually keeps the interior temperature at a comfortable, constant level. So it keeps homes cool in the summer, too.

If your air conditioner is always working and your energy bills keep rising, your home could need insulation. A good home inspection will tell you if you’re missing insulation. Make sure the inspector you hire uses a thermal imaging camera and is certified in thermography. Otherwise, the inspection could be worthless.

Summer is a really good time to do this. It gives us that crucial temperature difference we need to do thermal imaging the right way. If the inspector knows what they’re doing, they’ll be able to see heat spots along surfaces where insulation is missing.

Air conditioners are the still the crowd favourite for keeping cool. But we want to minimize our A/C usage and make it work as efficiently as possible. To achieve this, the outdoor unit must be clear of any leaves, dust and debris. Also, clean the filter every month while you’re using the A/C. And if you can, keep the outdoor unit in the shade. This will increase its efficiency by five to 10 per cent.

If you’ve had the same air conditioner for more than 10 years, consider replacing it. Older air conditioners use 30 to 70 per cent more electricity than energy-efficient models. They can also corrode or rust. When that happens, harmful refrigerants like Freon can enter the environment and contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Incorporating different cooling solutions is smart. We decrease our energy consumption, we decrease global warming, we make our homes work for us — and we save money in the process. Everyone wins when we care.

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Best of Holmes on Homes, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit For more information on home renovations, visit
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