Having an air conditioner is a must in many climates where long heat waves are a summer’s norm and with that, comes a high energy bill. Even in areas like ours, on the west coast, we can still experience enough hot days in a row to feel it. There are some ways of cooling your home which are cheaper and kinder to the planet than running A/C.
Staying cool doesn’t have to be hard. Whether you want to save money by using your A/C less or brave the heat without one, here are six ways that will help you, your family and your pets stay cool.
Block the Sun From Reaching Your Windows
The best way to beat the heat is to block the sunlight before it reaches your house. Whether you do that by hanging shades, installing awnings or even planting trees, the most effective use of the funds in your home-cooling budget is this.
It’s a simple concept, we do it with beach umbrellas to protect our skin and carports to shade our cars. Yet when it comes to houses, we tend to believe that interior drapes are as effective as exterior shading. But this is simply not true.
The more shading you can include on the outside, the better. If you can’t afford a new matching set of shutters, consider a simple overhang made with brackets and timber slats to block your windows from the intense summer sun.
Solar-control window films can offer UV protection and reduce the amount of heat gained from solar radiation. Compared with some elaborate shading systems, these could be a less expensive alternative.
Even simple and very inexpensive bamboo blinds can block a good amount of sunlight without sacrificing daylight.
If you’re planting trees for shade or installing any kind of shading, think about the sun’s path through the sky and how it’s rays hit your house.
Energy-efficient houses depend on well-designed shading systems, because the best way to avoid summer heat is by blocking the sun’s rays from ever reaching the windows.
Add Interior Drapes, Blinds or Shades
Once the heat from the sun passes through the glass, that heat will need to be ventilated to escape. To keep your floors and walls from soaking up heat from direct rays and emitting it throughout the day, it can help to add another layer of protection between the window and the main thermal mass of your home.
Sheer window treatments are a nice way to mitigate direct sun rays but maintain soft, natural daylight. Plus, white reflects sunlight better than colors.
There are a couple of tricks that you can use with sheer drapes that you can’t with interior blinds or shades.
Throw sheer drapes in the laundry the night before a really hot day or just dunk them in a bucket of water and ring them out. If you want add 4 or 5 drops of an essential oil, a scent you like. In the morning, take the damp drapes directly from the washer or the bucket and clip them to the rod. The open windows let the morning breeze pass through the drapes, cooling the air and filling your room with a fresh smell if you add the essential oil. By the time the drapes have dried, it’s probably about time to shut the windows, before the intense heat of the day starts. You could do the same in the evening.
Get the Air Circulating
Air will flow only if it is forced through a fan of some sort or if there is a large temperature difference with a neighboring body of air.
Night cooling is a great way to naturally decrease the temperature in your house and exchange hot interior air for cooler outdoor air. Have your windows open only in the early morning, at night or late in the evening when it is cooler outside than your ideal temperature indoors.
You may need to do some testing to see what works best for you, depending on your climate and the orientation of your house toward the sun. For this to work, there needs to be a substantial difference in temperature between the inside of your house and the outside. Once the outdoor air starts to heat up, close your windows to try and keep as much of that heat out as possible.
Ceiling fans and standing fans placed near windows at night can help force the air movement when there is no breeze and a small temperature difference. During the day the added air movement from fans can help the perception of heat, which is tied to humidity.
The reason everyone loves misters in the summer is for the evaporative cooling effect of water being lifted off the skin. Keep keep a couple of misters around the house, hidden near the fans, for a quick spritz as you pass by, animals will love it too.
Another evaporative cooling tip, borrowed from history, is to set a big chunk of ice (or ice packs) in front of a fan with a tray underneath to catch the water as it melts. It makes for a cheap and effective DIY air conditioner for small rooms. Close off the space as much as possible, so you don’t lose that great cool air.
Turn Off Major Appliances During the Day
To help maintain cooler temperatures during the day, reduce anything that generates heat in your house or apartment. For example, don’t use the dryer or oven and try not to open the fridge too often. The more you open it, the more the motor has to work to cool it down again, and the heat generated from that work will be released back into your apartment.
Try fresh summer salads or BBQ to avoid using your oven and stovetop.
Transition Your Bed Into Summer Mode
Many of us feel summer heat the most when trying to sleep. Reduce the amount of bedding you have and stick to natural fabrics like linen or 100 percent cotton. Synthetic blends don’t breathe enough to release all the heat we generate during the night.
Sleep on the porch or balcony. “Outdoor sleeping has come to stay, so let us recognize the fact and build our houses accordingly.” This declaration appeared in the magazine Decorative Homes of Moderate Costs in 1921, responding to the widespread fad of sleeping on screened porches. For many years, sleeping porches were an integral part of home designs.
Depending on your home or apartment and security concerns, you may have a little exterior screened-in space that can be used like a sleeping porch. You could have a little daybed with light bedding for nights when it’s comfortable enough to sleep in open air.
Or, forgo the bed altogether and sleep in a hammock for the summer!
Everyone knows that staying hydrated in summer is extremely important. But did you know that drinking water also helps regulate your body temperature?
Enjoy the summer and its heat!