How to Design a Home for Hot & Humid Climates

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When you live in an area of the world where humidity and heat are factors, special care must be taken when designing a house. Considering the high cost of energy needed to power air conditioners and dehumidifiers, the need for careful designing becomes all the more important. Fortunately, there are some low-impact steps you can follow when designing a home for hot and humid climates.

  • Pay attention to the orientation of the house. When you live in an area of the world that's both hot and humid, you want to try to orient your house so that it is not flooded with sunlight. Facing your house north or south versus east or west can help lessen the heat generated by the sun.

  • Choose the proper foundation. A slab foundation works well for buildings in hot and humid locations, especially those that are not insulated. These foundations are low-cost and, because they're not insulated, do not hold in the heat. However, because of the humidity, care must be taken to ensure the slab is properly designed and built to keep out moisture and gases like radon.

  • Ensure that when building the walls you achieve the recommended "30 percent energy space conditioning savings" when using wood framing. Using 2-by-4 lumber for the framing of exterior walls will work well, but supplement them with some kind of siding such as cementitious board; a housewrap that helps to prevent the infiltration of both air and water; either R-13 unbacked insulation or blow-in cellulous insulation in the exterior walls, walls between the living space and garage or any additions; and R-13 batt insulation on rim joists. Ensure that all wall penetrations are sealed with caulk or foam, and devote attention to the points where there's a possibility of air leaks–where walls meet ceilings, porches meet exterior walls and other such areas.

  • Consider masonry or concrete for walls when designing a house in a hot and humid climate. Both materials can be supplemented to work well in such a climate. As with other materials, they need to be properly insulated with rigid insulation that is semi-permeable to vapor on the interior of the walls. Clad the exterior with wood or stucco. Make sure you caulk at every wall penetration. Mount the electrical boxes to the surface of the masonry or concrete walls. Choose pressure-treated wood to frame doors and windows. Pay attention to drainage when pouring the slab to account for drain pans near entry doors.

  • Choose a dehumidification system for the house carefully. The system is necessary to control the level of humidity in the house–especially important in areas with high humidity. There's more than one type from which to choose: one that can be installed in the attic, should you design a house that has one, another that can be installed in the living space or one that's installed in its own enclosure outside the house.

  • Take advantage of trees. When you are designing a house in a hot and humid climate, trees are a low-cost, low-impact method of keeping your house cool. You can either take advantage of trees that are present or plant trees strategically to utilize the shade they provide. By shading your house, you can keep out the sun, thereby keeping your house cooler.

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