Energy Efficiency Considerations for Hot Climates
When speaking of energy efficiency, it is most common for experts to talk about optimizing energy savings in cold climates. This makes sense in America, as the majority of the country’s energy needs increase when the weather turns cold. However, energy efficiency is also important and attainable in hot climates. With the right strategies, design elements, and appliances in place, homes in places like Florida and Louisiana can become just as energy efficient as those in the north and Midwest.
Building Design Considerations
For greatest energy efficiency, the home should be designed from the ground up with consideration to how the light and other natural elements will affect energy needs. For example, West and East facing glass can have about five times the heat gain of north-facing glass. For best results, the home should be positioned so that the glass will mostly be placed within 20 degrees of North or South. Selecting colors that are reflective as opposed to absorbent for roofing and siding can also help to control the heat gains.
Landscaping can be planned to work with some home design elements. Where there are windows or doors installed on the west or east sides of a house, trees and shrubs can be positioned to block the sun at the hottest times of the day. If the trees are deciduous, they may work even better for controlling heat gains.
During the warm months, the trees will have leaves and block out sunlight. During the cooler months, the trees will lose leaves and allow greater heat gains. Shrubs and trees can also shade pavement so that sunlight is not reflected into the home.
The materials that are selected for the walls, floors, and roof, the type of windows and doors, and many other construction elements can all have a major impact on home energy efficiency. Materials that have low heat conductivity should be selected and should be thick enough to keep out unwanted heat gains. Windows should be shaded to keep out the heat as much as possible, possibly even using a recessed window design for consistency. Ceramic tile floors are the best for energy efficiency in hot climates, carpets are the worst.
Insulation for Savings
Insulation is important for hot climate energy efficiency, but less is needed than in cold climates. About two inches of foam insulation is generally sufficient to keep out heat gains and to keep cool air inside. A carefully sealed building envelop is very important, however.
The Role of ERVs
ERVs can help to prevent cooling inefficiencies while ensuring that air is adequately ventilated. An appliance such as the Zehnder Enthalpy exchanger can help to transfer humidity from one airstream to another along with heat so that the humidity level and the temperature in a hot climate home are controlled. Certain ERVs can help to control home comfort and health, without unnecessarily taxing the home’s air conditioning unit or requiring homeowners to install a dehumidifier. Homeowners can feel secure knowing that pollutants are being filtered out of the home, but the cooled air is not.