Beat the Heat
Four Ways to Lower Indoor Temperatures (and Energy Bills)
May, 2010 - Issue #67
photography by Ted Dayton

Upgrade your Old Thermostat
Sad fact: Your worn thermostat isn't just an eyesore; that box of rubble is actually costing you money! Swap the ugly old thing with a digital, programmable thermostat (set to 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter) and you'll save about $180 a year. The savings don't have to stop there. Install a whole-house fan to keep cool with the help of mother nature (bring in fresh, cool late-evening and early-morning air).

In elementary school we learned that heat rises; use that fifth-grade knowledge to your advantage and add an attic fan to keep the entire home more comfortable. Of course, preventive maintenance, tune ups and properly-charged refrigerant levels in your A/C unit will make things temperate, too. (Save $100 on an A/C tune up with the coupon on page 25.) Available at Ricardo's Heating & Air Conditioning Co. 299-5898

Stop Throwing Away Filters (and Money)
Installing a simple paper filter from the hardware store is a no-no. Most only block about 20 percent of airborne bacteria and must be changed monthly to be effective. When the filter goes unchanged (and let's be honest - it will go unchanged), buildup prevents your unit from "breathing" properly. The result is poor air flow, a warmer house and higher cooling bills. Plus, your air is still filled with toxins that can cause allergies, asthma, headaches, lung cancer and much more. Washable air filters that will last a lifetime can block 99 percent of all airborne bacteria (found in cooking oils, skin flakes, dust mites, pet hair, dander and more). And since your system doesn't have to work so hard to move the air, it'll last longer, too. If your home is more than two years old, get your system cleaned first to rid it of past contamination. Available at Dr. Air Care 888-401-VENT (8368)

Replace your Energy-sucking System
Your out-of-date heating and cooling system don't just suck about, on average, half of your home's energy; it can suck you dry, too. If your system is more than 10 years old, chances are that the energy savings that come standard in most new units will quickly cover the cost of springing for a new system. The super-efficient Infinity System by Carrier is one of the best on the market, and its coordinating rebates are even better. Get up to $1,200 back on your purchase, plus take a tax credit of $1,500 with purchase of a qualifying system. Available at GW Richardson Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. - a factory-authorized dealer of Carrier Heating & Cooling Products 295-0115

Improve your Home's Look - and Feel - with Basswood Shutters
Solid basswood plantation shutters, combined with double-paned windows, can increase the energy efficiency of your windows to an R-value of about 10. (An R-value of four is considered cost effective.) To really beat the heat, choose a white finish, which raises the reflective properties of your shutter to its peak performance. Consider ordering your new energy-conserving shutters to have them installed in your home before the days of summer reach a fever pitch. Available from Countryview Shutters 254-2908

Get Out(side)
Intentionally subjecting yourself to singeing SCV rays might not sound like the best-laid plan, but with a little forethought the great outdoors just might be your salvation from summer's heat.

Take Cover (Under a Tree)
Trees are the best way to provide shade in your yard, and some of the best options are Camphor Tree, Weeping Elm, Mimosa Tree and Sycamore Tree, according to Chad Curtis of Landscape Pros (510-8865). "Although most of these trees are deciduous, losing their leaves in the fall, they will provide shade in the summer and let light in for the winter," he explains. The Camphor tree is the odd one out; it's green year round and provides an incredible amount of shade when it gets bigger.

If you don't have room to plant shade trees, you can make a screen using plants in large containers, suggests Kirki Coleman of Green Thumb Nursery (259-1072). "Pyramid Waxleaf Privet, Hopseed Bush, or even Dwarf Citrus trees planted in containers can provide needed shade. And a deciduous vine growing up a trellis can provide summer shade while letting light in during the winter," says the garden expert.

Those Plants are Cool
"Plants can also cool your yard down by 10 degrees," says Curtis of Landscape Pros. "If you have a 'concrete jungle' backyard, consider removing some concrete and installing drought-resistant plants. They will make your yard beautiful and keep the temperatures within a tolerable range," he suggests.

Let there be Mist
Looking for a 30-degree temperature drop? Mist systems are another awesome way to cool down. "They do use water, but a low-volume, high-pressure pump uses less water than the cheap home improvement store brands. Because the water is pumped out at 1,000 pounds per square inch, the droplets are smaller and cool you more," informs the Landscape Pros owner.

Pool Power
When all else fails, nothing else beats a dip in your own pool. "It goes without saying, but a pool really is the best way to cool off. We offer free complete landscape design for pools, hardscape and softscape. You'd be surprised; even most small backyards can accommodate a pool," says Curtis.

Maybe you're not lacking a pool, but the desire to swim in it. With time and use, even the prettiest pools may become damaged by hard water and calcium buildup. Pool Tile Saver (510-5778) offers tile and stone descaling; tile repair; and Pebble Tech, ceramic tile, stone and concrete cleaning - all without harsh chemicals or acids. Minimal water is drained, and in most cases, your pristine pool will be splash-worthy within a day.

There are other ways to introduce the most cooling of elements into your outdoor space. "The addition of a water feature - like a pond or a fountain - brings an instant cooling effect to the outdoors," says Coleman of Green Thumb. "Creating a room outside on your patio with beautiful furniture, big and bright umbrellas, a firepit or barbeque and a water fountain is relaxing, rewarding - and a great way to beat the heat."

Made in the Shade
A patio umbrella is the perfect accessory to your outdoor patio or porch. "Not only does is reflect your personal taste and style, but it also blocks you and your guests from the harmful sunrays and provides a cooler, shaded area to sit and eat," says Amy Boswell of Oasis Garden & Patio (255-9909). If you are not using the umbrella, make sure you have it closed down and bound. "With the erratic and unpredictable Santa Clarita winds, a single gust can cause extensive damage to your umbrella and anything in its path. A heavy-duty umbrella stand is a necessary accessory as well," explains Boswell.

Cool Hot-weather Technology
Now you See it, Now you Don't
Phantom Screens (799-9226) supplies innovative retractable screen solutions for all types of door, window and large openings, like covered patios and telescoping walls. Unlike conventional fixed screens, Phantom screens don't obstruct your view - they retract out of sight when you don't need them.

The Phantom retractable door screen provides the utility of a conventional insect screen without the unsightly results, making it a perfect addition for any residential or commercial door application. Regardless of the door type, the Phantom door screen enhances the view from the interior and exterior. The innovative design and low profile of the retractable Phantom door screens make them fit with a variety of finishes and decor schemes.

Cool Off with Clean H2O
The simple fact is we can no longer take the quality of our drinking water for granted, and you may need a drinking water system to protect your family. Only one drinking water system is so advanced that it can eliminate nearly everything from your home's drinking water that isn't water: The Kinetico K5 Drinking Water Station, available from Guaranteed Water Systems, Inc. (259-4343). It's certified to remove more contaminants than any other system, is customizable to your home's specific filtration needs and it's expandable to accommodate your water filtration needs change over time. Plus, it boasts the Purefecta Filter, a combination medical-grade virus and bacteria filter that eliminates 99.99 perent of viruses and 99.99999 percent of bacteria.

Go Green - Literally
Trying to maintain a lush lawn in the Santa Clarita sun is a recipe for insanity. Keep your grass green by going faux this season with synthetic turf from Custom Turf Scapes (510-5778). No more chemical applications, no more mowing, no more watering, no more sprinkler maintenance... Just year-round beauty that's especially coveted when the mercury rises.

Fight WildFires with FlameSniffer
In Santa Clarita - home to more wildfires than we care to count - the FlameSniffer Defense System (888-575-8880) may be more essential to the protection of your home than a burglar alarm.
Just like thieves, wildfires can sneak in without warning and steal what you hold most precious. That's why we're so impressed with the concept behind FlameSniffer.

The Defense System is a fully-automatic, self-contained wildfire protection system against wildfire and ember attack. The patent-pending technology is fail-safe and requires no human intervention to operate, so even if you're not home (and you shouldn't be!) when a wildfire is rampaging, your house is protected.

The FlameSniffer system consists of automatic smart multi-sensors that are positioned around a property that can detect wildfire and ember conditions including heat, wind, infra-red and two different types of smoke detection.

An electrical pump and independent water and power supply ensure system operation even if municipal services are no longer available (water and power often go down in times of emergency). A unique external sprinkler system is discretely positioned on the home that will douse your house with a deep spray of retardant-infused water, of the right droplet density to ensure no evaporation, once a wildfire or ember attack has been detected. Water is sprayed in all directions, as well as into the wind. (Dousing into the wind blows the water back onto the home, saturating every place embers may settle and cause fire.)

In research and case studies, more than 98 percent of homes with defense systems were protected from wildfires.

Your "Cool" Outdoor Checklist
• Plant the proper tree in the optimum location. Consider using a deciduous tree that will lose its leaves in winter, when you want the sunshine.
• Design around the goal of beating the heat. Use cool colors like fern green, not silver or white.
• Position your lounging area to catch the natural breeze.
• Build a patio cover or vine-covered arbor, making sure that it will not adversely darken the interior of your home.
• Use outdoor fans and misters.
• Market umbrellas work great and can add a festive feel.
• Add a water feature nearby to add its cooling effect.
Tips courtesy of Jeff Brown of NV Landscape 286-8888.
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