Air conditioning is one of my favorite things, especially this summer. The whole country is on its way to its hottest year ever, and Nashville is on its way to one of its hottest summers on record. That combined with high humidity makes the heat index miserable. Local news channel WSMV even has a “Muggy Meter” for particularly humid days.
So how does this heat and humidity affect houses in Nashville? First, there are older homes built before air conditioning was standard. Those homes are often not as airtight as people now want. They were built to breathe and allow breezes through. They often have covered porches in front and back with multiple windows for each room. This allowed people to open windows and doors so air could pass through the house. The majority were built as single-story homes, with extra attic space occasionally used in winter but not year round. Some of these older homes still have attic fans. When people go in and add central air conditioning to these homes they have to work with all of this.
One thing that comes up is when you start adding cool air to an older house you may get condensation in the crawl space. Crawl spaces in older homes get moisture from the ground. When the homes “breathe” this dissipates into the house and outside. If someone trying to save energy comes in and seals the floor then they must be careful to avoid condensation, and then moisture build up and mold where the floor touches that warm crawlspace air. Another place to avoid condensation and further moisture damage are all the old windows and where the air conditioning vents pass through warm air, like in attics.
All ages of homes in Nashville also must look at heat damage outside. Often south-facing exterior walls are where you first notice peeling paint and wood damage. Trim around roofs also gets hot and might need to be painted more often. Repainting exterior wood every few years helps the wood to last and take the extreme heat.
As for humidity, let’s pretend you were building a house in a rainforest. What all would you do to keep humid air out and protect the structure? What materials would you use? When it comes to summertime in Nashville, your house is in a rainforest. No matter what time of year it is, look at your house as if it were getting heavy rain and heat every day. Here are a few ideas.
- Look at the ground around your house and make sure water rolls away and not toward it.
- Redirect all the water that comes off your roof and make sure it goes six-ten feet away from your foundation.
- Don’t let trees grow right up against your house but keep the ones that will give it shade.
- Have insulated windows or use storm windows to keep a barrier between your house and the outside.
- Insulate your attic like crazy. If you have two stories either have an air conditioning system that takes the stories into account or have two air conditioners.
- Keep your air conditioners running to remove dampness from the air and your whole house at an even temperature so your air conditioner doesn’t ever have to work too hard.
- And always keep your air conditioners in good shape!
Good luck beating the heat and the humidity this year!