Greening your home: The other air conditioning option
By Nicholas Haywood
When it comes to the daily decisions green individuals have to make, only a few are as far reaching as indoor climate control. In particular, the sweltering months of summer can see our energy costs peak at extraordinary heights. It can be easy to take for granted the cost of indoor climate control, and many people resort to dialing up their thermostat rather than exploring energy-efficient options.
There are several significant ways to affect your indoor temperature by your home’s design. Otherwise known as passive cooling, you can optimize a residence’s heating and cooling abilities by designing it appropriately. Houses can be designed in such a way as to naturally mitigate the sun’s warmth and reduce the energy needed to sustain a comfortable environment with features such as a low roof, compact design, impeccable insulation, heat reflective building materials, and proper ventilation.
Of course, redesigning our homes piece-by-piece is rarely a viable option for the average homeowner. But there is still a great deal that any homeowner can do in regards to minor home improvements and daily habits to achieve greater energy efficiency without relying excessively on a traditional air conditioner. Here are some tips on the natural way to allow your home to breathe and cool off without wasting energy:
Control the sunlight’s effect on your environment
The amount of sunlight your house receives is largely dependent on where it is situated. And unfortunately, this is impossible to change for all but residents of mobile homes. However, there are several inexpensive steps one can take to mitigate sunlight, including:
- Landscape your yard to deflect sunlight when you need it. While the sunlight that your lawn mitigates may seem inconsequential, it can make a difference of several degrees on your indoor temperature. While nobody needs a full-blown canopy, a few shady trees or bushes can make a big difference along the sunniest side of your home.
- Open windows during breezier hours in order to circulate the air in your home. However, close your blinds or curtains when direct sunlight is meeting your windows; install UV protected screen doors and window film for when you need to leave them closed. You can deflect a lot of heat by changing your habits with blinds and windows.
- Paint your home in a lighter color to avoid generating unnecessary heat. While darker colors can be aesthetically pleasing, they can affect your home’s heat just as dark clothes affect you during summertime. For colder climes, darker colors might be a preferable choice.
Improve how you insulate and ventilate
Part of the reason many people are shocked with their energy bills during Summer is that the thermostat doesn’t tell the whole story about how an air conditioner is performing. People who always leave their air conditioner on one setting can be blown away by how drastic their energy bill can change month-to-month. But there are many variables that affect how well an air conditioner performs, including how well it is being maintained and the state of your house.
- Try to eliminate any leaks in your home to prevent wasting energy. This is a particular problem in older or historical homes, where weathering and warping of floorboards and walls has time to ruin the airtightness of your home. Use sealants like polyurethane coating for wood or metal floors to seal them. For smaller applications, caulk can work wonders.
- Improve the airflow of your house to keep warm air out and cool air in. Remember that warm air rises, so having adequate ventilation and circulation is crucial. This is a particular challenge in lofts or other high-ceiling areas, making ceiling fans an ideal option. Make sure to not obscure any areas around ventilation ducts placed high on your walls.
- When extreme temperatures make survival an issue and you have to reach for the thermostat, reconsider what kind of tech you’re using to control your indoor climate. If you’re using an old or inefficient air conditioner, the impact you’ll be making on the environment and on your budget will be far worse. Consider more advanced eco-friendly options, like geothermal or solar energy. If you think solar isn’t an affordable option, think again.
What other tips would you recommend to those with a green thumb to beat the heat without relying on traditional air conditioning methods?
Nicholas Haywood is a home improvement specialist, a DIY enthusiast, a shameless tree hugger − and countless other labels that can’t possibly fit in a short author byline. When he isn’t kept busy writing or working, he kicks back on the weekends with his wife.
Topics: Heating & Cooling
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