Popular throughout the 1950s, Cape Cod style homes feature a bottom living floor, as well as a second floor built into an attic space. These homes are known for their compact shape and simple designs. Most are symmetrical on the outside, featuring two roof gables and a central doorway. Inside, they usually feature a single downstairs bedroom, along with either one large or two small bedrooms on the second floor.
A Cape Cod home can be a pleasure to live in, but it also presents a few heating and cooling challenges, thanks to its unique layout and lack of attic space. To add to the challenge, many Cape Cods were built cheaply, without much thought of insulation and energy efficiency. It will take a little work and attention to detail, but you can make changes to your Cape Cod home and its HVAC systems to make it more comfortable and improve efficiency. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction:
Don't count on central air to cool the second floor; use window units.
Heat tends to get trapped in the odd corners of a Cape Cod home's upstairs bedrooms, especially if the floor space extends into the gables. This makes it very challenging to cool the upstairs effectively with a central air conditioning system. Some HVAC contractors may recommend using a larger unit than the home's square footage suggests is necessary, in an effort to make up for this trapped hot air. You may or may not find success with this method, depending on your home's layout and existing duct work.
In most cases, it's easier and more cost effective to simply install a central air conditioner with the capacity to cool the home's square footage, and then use window units to cool the upstairs. You may only need to use the window units on the hottest days of the year, but having them there will ensure you don't sweat away your summer nights.
Replace the insulation materials, possibly with spray foam.
Many Cape Cods were built with minimal insulation, and thanks to the small spaces between their interior and exterior walls, there is not enough room to insert enough insulation to keep the homes comfortable. Spray foam insulation is a great choice for these homes; only a thin layer is needed to insulate effectively. It also helps seal up cracks and crevices, so the home will feel less drafty. Keep in mind that while the process of applying spray foam insulation generally pretty quick and easy, having the existing insulation may require more work.
Make sure the current ducts or hot water pipes are properly placed.
Many Cape Cod homes do have forced air, but some do not have ducts leading to the upstairs. Depending on your home's layout and your budget, you may wish to either have the ducts amended to bring forced air into the upstairs (you may also need to upgrade your furnace as a part of this process) or install separate electric heaters upstairs.
Some Cape Cod homes are heated with boiler systems, rather than forced air. Removing a boiler system and replacing it with a forced air system is a huge and expensive project. Most often, improving on the layout of the hot water pipes can help ensure a home is more evenly heated. Some Cape Cod homes have the water pipes placed behind the insulation, which can lead to inefficient heating and moisture issues. If this is true of your home, you'll likely want to have the water pipes reconfigured and the insulation replaced at the same time.
Cape Cod homes are small and compact, and their design uses floor space efficiently. Unfortunately, they aren't often heated and cooled efficiently. If you live in a Cape Cod home or are thinking of purchasing one, it's wise to have an HVAC specialist from a site like http://www.perryheatingandcooling.com look at the home's system and see what improvements can be made. Keep the tips above in mind as you make decisions.