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Several Options Offer Cooler Summer Homes
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The South's hot, humid weather is a battle for some homeowners, but there are ways to beat the Mississippi heat.
"The temperature battle is easier to win when the heat is prevented from entering the home, as opposed to attempting to cool it once it is inside," said Frances Graham, housing specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "After the heat is inside the walls, fans or air conditioners fight the battle."
Several options exist that can lower the temperature inside the home by up to 20 degrees. One way to redirect heat is with landscaping.
"Strategically placed deciduous trees outside the home on the south and west sides reduce the greenhouse effect by providing shade in the summer, and then lose their foliage in the winter to allow sun to warm the home," said David Tatum, an MSU horticulture specialist.
"Also, evergreen trees placed on the north and northwest sides give added protection by shielding the winter winds," Tatum said. "A leafy tree's shade that covers a portion of the house and blocks sun from entering the windows will not only beautify the yard, but reduce the demand for electricity to cool the home by 30 percent. This option must be planned since young trees take several years to provide much relief."
Be sure to plant trees based on the expected maturity height. Usually 25 feet from the roof line or wall is sufficient. Consider transplanting a more mature tree to a good location for more immediate help.
Another option for homeowners are smaller plants, such as creeping plants, vines or roses, placed on trellises, brick or concrete walls. Placed close to the house, these fixtures provide shade, greenery and color outside a window. Trellises do not have to be an expensive treatment. A Saturday afternoon spent doing some creative gardening can create beneficial shade.
Awnings are also an effective means to combat excessive heat from entering the home. Properly installed awnings on south, east and west-facing windows, can reduce the direct heat gain significantly.
"Awnings do tend to block some of the view, but they are still quite effective," Graham said.
A final option sunscreens is perhaps the greatest benefit. These darkened, thick screens block as much as 80 percent of heat from entering the home. The rooms with sunscreen- covered windows do become darker, but a darker room does give a cool sensation.
The actual temperature set on the air conditioner is a personal choice.
"If 78 degrees allows you to be comfortable, then your energy bill may be significantly less than what some pay. For each degree lower, the energy bill increases," Graham said.
For more information, contact your county Extension office and ask for Information Sheet 1141 titled "Landscaping To Conserve Energy" or find it online at http://ext.msstate.edu/pubs/is1141.htm.