With economists reporting mortgage rates at a 20-year low, more people are out shopping for a new home. If you're among the house hunters - or if you're remodeling a home you already own - there are choices to make that can save on utility costs long after you buy or complete your remodeling.
At the same time you're cost-cutting, you can enhance the aesthetics of your home and property.Robert A. Maruszewski, director of marketing for Emerson Electric's builder products division - a major manufacturer of fans for homes - has some important tips for cooling a home economically this summer. He suggests a whole-house approach, starting from the outside and working inward. For a relatively small investment, you can reap high dividends when the hot summer sun beats down on your home.
Start your environmental economics at the time of purchase or when planning improvements.
- Strategic landscaping. Assess the location of trees and large shrubbery on your property. Utility companies say trees and shrubs that provide shade to the house can be a boon to comfort and economy. They provide the most cooling when placed on the south side of the house where there is greatest exposure to the sun.
- Ceiling fans. Ceiling fans can bring comfort to your home year round. In warm weather, they offer a cooling breeze; in winter, they help redistribute heat more evenly.
Also, they can let you set your air conditioner thermostat higher and still feel comfortably cool. The gentle, constant, cooling breeze of the fan makes one feel about 7 degrees cooler than the air really is.
Remember, today's ceiling fans are decorator accessories. Emerson and AirDesign, for instance, offer a wide variety of designs - from elegant Victorian styling to dramatic European and contemporary geometric designs. Available for all budget ranges, the fans can be fitted with aesthetically beautiful light fixtures.
- Attic or whole house fans. In addition to ceiling fans, fans installed in the attic floor (opening through your ceiling) or in the attic wall of gable can lower your house temperature up to 25 degrees, even when operated only a few hours at night, say the experts.
And you can reduce energy costs up to 60 percent with a whole house fan, using the fan as a supplement to air conditioning, or to replace it in temperatures under 85 degrees.
Emerson's 24-inch direct drive flush-mount fan can make a complete air change every three minutes in up to 1800 square feet. A 30-inch fan can change air in up to 2550 square feet. The fan's shutter opens and closes automatically, and variable speed controls adjust for desired cooling.
- Blinds and drapes. Especially in warmer climates, covering your windows during the day to block the sun's rays helps prevent overheating your home. Open your windows only during evening and early-morning hours to take advantage of cool outside air.
- Light-colored shingles. Lighter colors reflect more of the sun's heat than darker colors and are the cooler choice if you're replacing or covering an old roof.
For more information about Emerson and AirDesign products, write Builder Products Division, Emerson Electric Co., St. Louis, MO 63042, or call (212) 721-0509.
8 tips for hanging a cool addition from the ceiling
1. Check your room dimensions, ceiling height, room colors and style of decor before purchasing a ceiling fan.
2. Look for a high-quality motor - the most critical part of your decision. Is it smooth-operating and quiet while it is on?
3. Get the most efficient blade size: a 42-inch diameter fan for a 100-square-foot room; 52-inch fan for up to 400, and a 46-inch fan for areas up to 600 square feet. Larger rooms often require more than one fan.
4. Make sure the fan blades are equally angled and perfectly balanced so they won't cause wobble when they rotate.
5. Get the correct extension rod length. The fan should hang no lower than seven feet from the floor.
6. Since fans often replace light fixtures, look into wall controls. Emerson and AirDesign fans can be operated from a wall switch that only requires wiring used for a standard light fixture.
7. Become familiar with the warranty. It can run from five years up to a lifetime.
8. If you're self-installing, follow manufacturers' directions; make sure your electrical junction box is approved for hanging a ceiling fan.