Tips and tricks to keep your house cool without airconditioning
After having survived the hottest two weeks of the past century, and hearing about the deliberate choice to switch of the power in some areas of California as it became impossible to match the demand for electricity, due to the massive use of airconditioning, this week's topic had to be about how to keep your house and yourself cool without needing to rely on energy-guzzling airconditioning.
Bioclimatic or green design
Enter the magic word: bioclimatic or green design where architects design a building in such a way that it can turn into its own air conditioner by using the environment around a building to passively manage the temperature and light inside, rather than mechanically heat and cool a space.
Structures designed that way are energy efficient, which leaves them with a smaller carbon footprint. Buildings contribute 40% to the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions in countries with a hot summer climate like the United States.
Passively heating and cooling a building is far from a new idea. Early architects designing cities in countries with a hot climate, like Morocco, Egypt and Ian, developed many of these solutions centuries ago. They built homes and buildings with natural ventilation that let air through cooling courtyards and into homes, and designed windcatchers to harness breezes.
Building with energy and the environment in mind requires an intimate understanding of local climate, and the movement of the sun and wind.
Evaporative cooling systems can mist the air with water to trigger evaporation, which further brings down the temperature.
However, that only works in places that aren’t already humid.
Depending on the local climate, one can implement different techniques.
You can cool a space by closing it up during the day, and opening it up during the evening to allow night breezes in, for example, or build with materials that can suck up heat.
Climatically designed buildings make economic sense. Lower energy requirements mean lower energy costs. In some cases, the initial investment is higher, but not always. If you put a window in the right place instead of the wrong place, it’s going to be the same cost. But the cost to operate the building is going to be different, so if you put it in the right place, it will save you money after.
Strategies like ventilation and cooling towers, though, haven’t caught on in a big way yet.
Despite the long-term economic benefits of bioclimatic design, one of the barriers to wider implementation is still the cost. Part of the problem is the people who build the buildings don't pay for the energy bills.
As an added bonus, people tend to be more comfortable in buildings designed with these principles. Working in buildings with natural light and ventilation has been linked to higher productivity.
Tips to cool down your houseIf you aren't about to build your own house, what can you do to cool your own house when you don't have or want to invest in an expensive airconditioning unit?
1. Close your blinds or curtains from late morning until early eveningClose your blinds or curtains from late morning until early evening. This simple act can keep a room 5-10 degrees cooler. You can also purchase window tint film on your windows.
2. Close the doorsYou would be amazed at how much heat travels through your doors. Even if you have a screen or storm door in place.
Basically, light can equate to heat. So you need to keep your home dark and the doors closed up tight to keep that excess heat out of your home.
If you have a glass back door, use the same window tint film or block out the sun temporarily by using aluminum foil.
Consider more energy efficient options for windows, doors and insulation. Better insulation and tighter seals will help you keep your home cooler in extreme heat and warmer in winter with less energy.
Close off rooms that are not in use, and focus your cooling efforts only where you need them.
3. Shade the outside of your windowsIf your home has no protection from the sun, then it will continue to beat directly down on top of it. This is a problem because it means your house will be super hot.
A completely dark house during the summer with all of the blinds or curtains closed can make you feel depressed. Instead you can put a shade outside your house. You can buy stylish awnings, but in a pinch even bed sheets can be used to cover a window, while still allowing light to come in. With more space, you can put up a sun umbrella outside to block the afternoon sun and pretend you're at the beach!
4. Plant shadeThis takes some time to establish and a little bit of planning but will provide you win-win results. A tree in full bloom can block over 70% of solar radiation from entering your home. Sun-loving, shade providing plants, trees and shrubs in front of windows that receive the afternoon sun to cool down your house and add beautiful landscaping to your yard.
Trees and foliage also lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade. They also breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen and water vapor (called evapotranspiration). Trees and foliage can reduce the temperature by 10–25°C compared to unshaded surfaces, such as asphalt. The difference will be less in your home but even a 5°C drop will make a big difference, a larger area helps increase the shading effect.
Don't despair when you only have a balcony, as you can also use larger plants in pots to provide shade. Even a simple sunflower, which grows quickly can provide shade in summer.
5. Use a fanFans targeting a small area use a lot less energy than cooling an entire home.
Fans don’t so much “cool” the air as they keep air moving around, which, as it moves over your skin and helps your sweat evaporate, makes you feel cooler than you would be if the air were still.
You can set up larger fans in windows or hallways so you get an awesome cross breeze, drawing in cooler air from one part of your home (or outside) and pushing the warm air elsewhere.
Another trick is to put ice in a large bowl and place it in front of the fan. This creates a cool, misty breeze that feels great on hot days.
In hot climates permanent ceiling fans are a tremendous help in keeping your home cool enough. They keep the air moving constantly which obviously cools your home down.
You can also find them in some older factories. Our local gym is situated in an old cigar factory with high ceilings while using ceiling fans on long poles to keep the air moving further down.
6. Use your exhaust fansMost people have exhaust fans in both their bathrooms and their kitchen in order to pull out steam from showering or cooking. Few people know you can also use them to pull heat out of your home.
7. DehumidifyIf you live in an area with dry heat your body perspires, your sweat evaporates, and you cool off – just the way nature intended. If you live in an area with lots of humidity you sweat and it doesn't evaporate. Instead it soaks your clothes leaving you feeling hot, wet, sticky, and miserable.
To feel cooler in high humidity, a dehumidifier can work wonders.
A dehumidifier helps remove excess moisture from the air, which leaves you feeling cooler even in hot temperatures. They have the disadvantage of creating heat on their own, but when you live in a humid environment, it is worth the trade-off.
In our country dehumidifiers are not usually sold at regular stores selling household items, because humidity rarely is a huge problem. If you do consider getting one, like we did because nutritional supplements are ideally stored in a dry environment, you can buy one at a business-to-business wholesale store such as Makro.
8. Open your windows strategicallyOpen your windows at night or in the early morning to cool the house down, then shut them when it gets warm outside.
9. UnplugEverything you plug into a socket produces heat. Unplug all unnecessary appliances or electronics when not in use. Even those little red glowing lights that stare at you in the middle of the night indicating the item is turned off drain energy and produce heat.
Turning something off is not enough – unplug.
10. Energy efficient bulbsRegular light bulbs are not energy efficient, but they produce another problem as well. They radiate a lot of excess heat when they are producing energy.
A traditional 100 Watt light bulb can increase the heat by over 5 degrees in a small room.
Switch to energy efficient bulbs if you haven't done so already.
Also, consider using lighter paint and finish colors in your home. Light colors reflect more light and reduce your need for extra task lighting.
11. Don't cook or cook outsideDuring the summer months, try to pre-plan meals so that you don't need to use the oven during the day. If you have to use the oven, try to cook your meal before noon or after the heat of the day.
Or cook outside to still have delicious meals without heating up your home.
12. Unclutter your roomA cluttered room feels hot! Remove unwanted curios, furniture, books, newspapers and magazines from the room to make it more airy.
Use a centrepiece that psychologically creates a feeling of cool calmness. Take a vase, a bowl, or any other glass vessel and fill it with cold water. Next, put in some pretty flowers (or even petals), pebbles, sea shells or even fresh leaves for a whimsical piece of decor that is as summery as it gets!
13. Cool yourself down with body mistPut a light perfume such as as an eau de cologne or a designated body mist in the refrigerator and simply mist yourself on a regular basis. Especially if you can stand in front of a fan or out in a shady breeze, this can do wonders for cooling down your body.
It can also be a life saver during a situation where you might be getting close to heat exhaustion.
If you don't mind being wet all the time, you could also jump into the shower more often than usual. A lukewarm shower at night may also work wonders when you wake up after just a few hours sleep with a bodyy soaked in sweat.
14. Sleep in your basementIf your home is blazing hot and you can’t handle the heat upstairs, try sleeping in the basement to cool your costs. Setting up a bed and sleeping below ground is free and can help you catch some sleep when the weather is unbearable.
15. Sleep suspended in the airIf you don't have a basement or can't even sleep in the lowest level of your house when temps are hot, consider sleeping in a bed that is above the ground, then you can have air flow all the way around you.
If you have a hammock that you can sleep comfortably in or on, then this might be a good option.
16. Try a bamboo mat to sleep on
If you don’t have a way to sleep suspended to create air flow, then try subbing out your mattress for a bamboo mat.
A bamboo mat is less comfortable than your mattress. But you also have to remember that it won’t hold heat like a thick cotton mattress will.
17. if all else fails, go elsewhereIn daytime, it is quite easy to escape a hot house or apartment as most businesses are airconditioned in order to keep their staff and customers cool as well as perishable goods. But what if you are afraid to get infected with COVID-19 due to poor ventilation equipment?
Temporarily moving in with a friend or family with air conditioning may be a cool move if you’re living without drapes, don’t have a basement, or prefer to live fan-free. Cool friends boasting a place to “chill-out” might just prove golden for the hottest of summer nights.
If you can’t handle the heat, then be sure to bring your besty a bottle of summer spirits for helping you out in a hot situation. ‘Cause that’s what friends are for.