Fighting to Cool My House

This year, I moved from my apartment to a house. Thanks to various global events, the housing market, including rentals, is a bit crazy. While I’m not poor, I still want to try to spend as little as possible, especially with these expensive rents.

The battle I’m fighting right now is cooling my house in a way that isn’t more than doubling my energy requirements from my apartment.

The first problem I’m running into is the ability for my HVAC to actually cool. Based on what I’ve learned, the vents should be blowing around 50F. When I moved in, it was blowing around 70F. There’s all kinds of signs the previous residents didn’t really maintain this system well, such as the clogged filter I had to remove, and the tree growing between the house and outside unit, so this has probably been a long standing problem. I cleaned the coils as much as I could and had maintenance add refrigerant. It can blow around 64F, now, which is not ideal, but is an improvement.

My energy usage came down a little. But on hot days, my house is still only cooling to 78F.

The days are getting cooler, now, with highs around 90F instead of being closer to 100F, so the system is having an easier time cooling in the heat of the day. The air coming from the vents is now closer to 60F, which is still a tad high.

One of the first things that I did, here, was change all the light bulbs. Most of the lighting, here, was LED to begin with, but they were pretty crappy quality ones. There were a few incandescent bulbs, and a few CFL. So, now, I have a bunch of high quality bulbs that sip power to operate and don’t radiate a bunch of heat. They also put off a much nicer warm white light. So I don’t see the system fighting against these at this point.

I have a smart thermostat. I switched from Nest to Ecobee. While the reporting is not what I’m used to, I’m able to easily integrate it into my HomeAssistant ecosystem, unlike the Nest (yeah, It’s possible, but the integration frequently breaks and the process to create it and maintain it is super onerous and annoying). I can get the metrics I want from there. On days above 90F, the system runs for hours at a time during the heat of the day, which is not good. In a normally operating system, this kind of operation could cause the air handler coils to freeze over. But from what I can tell, those coils never get to freezing temps.

Since the days are cooling and there’s been some rain, it’s been hard to build the evidence I need to resubmit a request to deal with the HVAC. On top of that, my landlord’s site won’t let me submit that kind of request, noting that it’s only for residents (which I am, and their support has stopped responding to me about this problem).

So I started working on other things. The back door is leaky because the house foundation has shifted and the door is no longer completely square in the door frame. I’ve made various repairs to deal with this, and it now seals properly.

I read that running the HVAC colder at night, colder than you might normally run it, should cause a significant delay on when the HVAC needs to run in the day as the house retains the temperature and takes a long time to come up. So, I set it to 70F at night to see how I and my dogs tolerate it. I have some other adjustments to make to be comfortable in this, but the dogs didn’t seem to mind it. So I might chase this down a bit more. I need to explore a larger temperature delta between night and day so I can promote a longer delay in running, but I might have found another problem: before it got to even 80F outside, the interior temperature was rising at around a rate of 1 degree per hour.

This house has a fireplace. I never intend to use it. They don’t work how people believe they do, and this one being a wood burning fireplace, they’re messy. This one is missing its doors. But, even worse, I discovered the flue was wide open, and when closed, it’s still quite breezy.

This is about where I am in this problem. My HVAC is not cooling quite to the level that it should, though it’s able to work reasonably in the current weather, and I have a leaky fireplace. I’ve ordered a couple of things to deal with the fireplace and will continue to explore the overnight overcooling strategy. Hopefully my results will improve a bit without lowering the temperature uncomfortably, and setting an uncomfortably high tempurature during the day. I suspect I’m not going to be able to get the HVAC actually fully fixed until next Spring at the earliest, probably closer to Summer when the temps start really climbing.

There’s a ton more I could probably do, but I don’t own this house so I’m a bit limited. Definitely learning from this for when I buy my own house in a couple or so years.