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  • Writer's pictureMaria Luisa Castellanos

Ideas to include in your new house or addition to reduce energy bills by Miami residential architect

Courtyards can be used to reduce heat
Courtyards can be used to reduce summer temperatures

As a Miami residential architect, I want to emphasize today the importance of designing for cooling your house in this weather. As each year passes, the summer temperatures, and even the winter temperatures, get hotter.

So, what are some things you should install in your new home or addition?

These are recommended methods of cooling:

Passive cooling

  • Shading: This is the most important factor in passive cooling. Shading can be provided by trees, awnings, overhangs, or shading devices. In Miami, a 2’-0” overhand is the minimum that most architects use in their designs. Overhangs actually protect the walls and windows from heat gain in a hot climate.

  • Insulation: Good insulation will help to keep the heat out in the summer and the heat in the winter. In Miami, R-30 is the minimum rating for insulation that is required by code when there is an attic to the house. If there is a flat roof, such as a flat concrete roof as I recommend in my article, Build a concrete slab roof on your new house and save yourself the headaches of wood trusses, then the insulation rating required is R-19.

  • Ventilation: Cross-ventilation is the most effective way to cool a house passively. This means having windows on opposite sides of the house that can be opened to create a breeze. The typical classical design of the tropical house with the rooms around a courtyard can reduce the heat in your house all year around. You can save on energy costs when you can open the windows when it is a little hot, but not hot enough to require air-conditioning.

Active cooling

  • Air conditioning: This is the most common way to cool a house actively. However, it can be expensive to run. Now, an air-conditioning system should have a SEER of at least 15.0. This will be efficient enough and reduce electrical costs when the A/C is running.

  • Fans: Fans can help to circulate the air in your home and create a breeze. This can help to cool you down even if the temperature outside is still hot. I cannot say enough good things about fans. Sometimes what makes a room hot is the lack of a breeze. With fans, a breeze is guaranteed and will make the room much more comfortable.

Here are some additional tips for cooling your home passively:

  • Paint your roof white: This will reflect the sun's rays and help to keep your home cooler. Some people do not find a white roof attractive. I don’t, but use a light gray roof and the attic will be much cooler.

  • Plant trees around your home: Trees can provide shade and help to keep the air cool. With a courtyard and sufficient trees within 20’ around your house, your electric bill will go down. Guaranteed!

  • Open your windows at night: This will allow the cool night air to circulate through your home. This combined with ceiling fans will make your rooms pleasant.

  • Install a programmable thermostat. This will make it easy to set the temperature higher when you are away from home during the day, if you commute to the office.

If you are contemplating designing and building a new house or addition, and want to discuss these topics more, feel free to call me, Maria Luisa Castellanos, principal of United Architects, at 305-439-7898.


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