One of the great things about being a homeowner is that you get to do pretty much whatever you want when it comes to home design and decor. And if your mom wouldn’t let you paint your bedroom pitch black when you were a teenager, there’s nothing stopping you now -- unless it’s higher energy bills.

That’s because dark colors absorb 70 to 90 percent of the radiant energy to which they’re exposed, and dark rooms will stay warmer longer if you let the sunshine pour in during the day. Compared to light colors, which reflect heat, there’s a clear choice if you want to maximize your energy efficiency. Even if it comes at the expense of expressing your angst. 

Decisions, Decisions

Dark colored walls aren’t always a challenge to keeping your home cool. If it’s a room with few or no windows and no exterior walls, your color choice might not make any difference at all. But before you commit to a darker shade, there are a couple of other factors to consider.

Dark walls make rooms feel smaller, whereas lighter colored walls can make a room feel larger. If you hate the feeling of being cooped up, you might not like the color upgrade as much as you think you will.

And if you ever try to sell your home, get ready to put more than a few coats of light paint over the dark stuff. Prospective buyers and real estate agents will have a hard time seeing the appeal in a room that isn’t bright, open and inviting.

But if you decide to go dark anyway, the key to keeping out the heat is to use the right window treatments. Heavy curtains or drapes that cover the entire window are best, and if they’re dark to match the room, be sure they have a light layer on the window-facing side. This will help reflect sunlight and minimize heat absorption in the room.

Go Into the Light

If all this talk of trapping in heat has you rethinking your painting plans, don’t despair. You can still make a striking statement by using dark and bold colors as accents in rooms where the walls are generally lighter. Building elements like window and door frames, radiators and light fixtures will give life to a room if they’re painted to starkly contrast their surroundings. Even a full accent wall of a single dark color can make a big impression without having a huge impact on heat absorption, assuming most of the other surfaces are light.

And speaking of light, the right wall colors can also help you save energy by keeping the lights off right up until sunset. Most household paints are assigned a light reflectance value, or LRV, that is often printed on paint can labels and swatches. The higher the number is, the more light that color can reflect, making it easy to choose a color that will allow you to make the most of the natural light beaming through the windows.

A licensed HVAC technician isn’t likely to pick up a brush and help you paint, but she can be indispensable when planning major home design upgrades. There are all sorts of changes to your home that could affect HVAC performance, and you don’t want to figure those things out late in the process. If you have big changes in mind and you want to make sure your HVAC equipment will still get the job done efficiently, call to schedule an appointment with your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.

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