Summer is right around the corner, and the rising temperatures in many areas have already arrived. As the searing summer months approach and drag on, finding ways to keep your house cool will make you more comfortable. Chilling out without the use of energy-thirsty air conditioning will not only save you money but is good for the planet, too.
For thousands of years, humans found ways to stay cool, even in the hottest climates, without the use of AC. Take a card from that playbook to keep your home comfortable without relying on energy-intensive resources by incorporating the ideas below.
Open the windows
Creating a cross-breeze is one of the most effective ways to cool a home. Many resorts and vacation homes in tropical areas rely on this technique instead of installing AC for a good reason — it works. The key to effective breeze cooling is figuring out which direction the wind blows. In some areas, it’s fairly consistent, commonly coming from the same direction during the same times each day (most often in the afternoon). Open up windows during that “window” of breeze to encourage the flow through your home.
Also take advantage of cooler nighttime and early morning temperatures. Leave screened windows open to allow the cool air to come inside. Then, trap it by shutting windows on each side of the house as the sun hits it, i.e. the east side in the morning and the west side in the afternoon.
Rely on the blinds
When your windows are closed, also close off heat absorption by closing the blinds. For windows that are in direct sunlight for a good portion of the day, consider installing shutters or rolling blinds on the outside of the window as well. If you don’t want to block out the light entirely, install window film that is made to insulate against heat while letting light into the room.
Blackout the light
The most effective way to keep the sun from injecting blistering heat into a room is to keep it dark. Completely close off rooms when they are not being used. If you don’t mind being left in the dark, install blackout curtains, which effectively block the heat from entering the room through the window.
Become a fan of fans
Both ceiling fans and box fans are effective in cooling a space without cranking up the energy bill. For ceiling fans, make sure they are rotating in a counterclockwise direction during the warm months. Most ceiling fans have a switch near the top that changes the direction in which the blades rotate. This is so that the fan pushes cooler air downward during the summer. Reverse the blades during the winter, which pulls cool air up toward the ceiling to keep the living space warmer. Box and other fans help keep the air flowing throughout the space for a cooling effect. To create cooler air, place a container of ice directly in front of the fan. The air from the fan will bounce off the ice and direct the cool air across the room.
Insulate against the heat
With all of this talk about the importance of air flow, it seems counter-intuitive to mention insulation. However, keeping hot air from entering your space prevents from having to then cool it. Just like with cold air during the winter, evaluate any place that hot air may seep in. Close the damper in your fireplace. Feel around your doors and windows for airflow, and install weatherstripping as needed. Grab a package of insulation foam for your light switches and outlets.
Turn off appliances
Even during the sizzling days of summer, you need to eat and do laundry, but appliances in the home generate a lot of heat and compromise your success in the battle against a hot house. Plan ahead to avoid turning on appliances as much as possible. Dust off that slow cooker book and cook dinner without turning on the stove. Also enjoy some summer grilling that takes the hot cooking outdoors. Better yet, on very hot days, go with a cold sandwich or salad and avoid cooking altogether.
You can also keep the clothes dryer from heating up your space by hanging clothes to dry or only running it at night after the temperature drops. Even the dishwasher sends out heat, so wash dishes by hand and allow them to air dry in the warm space, or run the dishwasher without the final dry cycle that produces heat. Give your refrigerator a bit of a break. It works hard during hot weather, so keep up maintenance by cleaning the vent in the front and the coils in the back. Keep food away from the edges inside the fridge, so air can flow freely.
Get shade from plants
Keeping the home cool on the inside starts on the outside. Your landscape design can have a huge impact on the temperature inside your house. Plan ahead by placing trees where they will block intense sun rays during the height of the season. Put shrubs and vines on south- and west-facing walls to help insulate against the heat.
Stop unwanted heat gain with awnings
For a long-term, albeit less natural, approach, build permanent awnings or invest in retractable awnings over corridors, decks and windows. This will also make enjoying the outdoors on super hot days a little easier!
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