It is no secret that living in the Phoenix area presents a unique challenge, given the harsh summer climate, arid terrain, and dry air. Despite these challenges, people have inhabited the area for thousands of years, choosing to adapt to the desert climate and calling the Valley of the Sun "home". For some many of us that have relocated from other parts of the country, we too have to adapt to the desert southwest and the best place to start that adaption is in the place we call home.
For the uninitiated, the desert southwest presents extreme temperatures where it can exceed the 110's during the day and stay above 90F at night. Often times, the difference between The average annual rainfall never really exceeds 7 inches of rain, often concentrated in summer monsoon storms that are short, violent, and exciting. Meanwhile, the air is relatively dry with low humidity throughout most of the year until the summer monsoon season where the moisture in the air skyrockets as the temperatures are in the triple digits. These weather extremes present challenges to home owners due to higher electrical costs, more demands on a home's mechanical devices like air conditioners, pressure to conserve resources like water, and modification of
To survive the Phoenix weather, the best place to start is at home. Your home insulates you from the excessive heat while keeping your indoor climate at comfortable levels. It protects you from the summer monsoon storms, keeping the dusty air on the outside, the constant ultra violet sunshine off of your skin, and the outdoor pollutants in the outdoors and not inside. Insulation in the walls and attics are designed to keep the extreme heat out while keeping the nice cool air conditioning inside. Windows allow the winter sun in to brighten a room while designed to block the harsh summer sun. Air conditioners work hard to pull out the monsoon humidity as it pumps the cool air throughout the home. Spot ventilation pulls out indoor contaminants while you cook in order to keep your indoor air quality at optimum levels. While most homes are designed to do just most of this, not all homes are created equal.
Most homes are built to the minimum specs to protect homeowners from the desert climate. Homes are generally sealed sufficiently to keep outdoor pollutants outside. The average home tested shows that there are significant air leaks in any given home. Often time the air that leaks into a home is filtered through dirty attic insulation and through penetrations in the building envelope like recessed can lights or electrical outlets, thus bringing in any outdoor dirt, pollent, and other unfiltered air into the living space. Air conditioners are installed that have minimum efficiency requirements, not properly sized for the space, or even sealed to prevent cool air escaping into attic spaces. Typically, the average air conditioner leaks 15% of its air back outside. Attics are notorious for not having sufficient insulation, which is important for the part of the house that can exceed 140F-160F during the summer. Many homes are oriented where the main living areas are unnecessarily heated by the harsh afternoon sun, forcing homeowners to seal off windows, darken the shades, and turn down the thermostat in order to keep it semi-comfortable. Meanwhile, many homes have lush, water intensive lawns and landscaping that are not native to the local environment and require an unsustainable amount of water to maintain. These homes have been built (and are being built) because many home buyers didn't understand the unique climate we live in or didn't demand it from home builders at that time. As a result, home owners have needlessly spent thousands of extra dollars on retrofitting their homes to properly adapt it to our climate or lived with the higher cost of living.
Focusing on desert living can help you find comfort controlled, efficient homes that are designed to save on utility costs without sacrificing on comfort. With the variety of financing programs and rebates available to home buyers, it is easier now more than ever to find the right home and adapt it to your desert lifestyle. Not only can you enjoy the benefits of better controlling your indoor environment, you have the ability to lower both your short term and long term costs while playing your part in making better sustainable decisions.