Erin Doman on August 15, 2015 0 Comments It is officially the warm season, and once again many of us are struggling to stay cool in our own homes. Air conditioning units can drive your utility bills through the roof in hotter climates, and they’re not the most earth-friendly solution either. Here are eight easy and environmentally conscious ways to keep your home cool without dialing down the thermostat. 1. Keep an Open Mind to Open Windows Sometimes the knee-jerk reaction is to close the doors and windows, and simply crank up the air conditioning. Conventional wisdom tells us to keep hot air outside. However, natural wind and airflow is an extremely effective way to keep cool in the heat. People have always used the wind to cool themselves off in some way or another, simply because it works. Look around your home: determine which way daytime breezes tend to blow, and what physical properties may promote or discourage them from blowing briskly through your living space when your windows are open. Consider installing a windsock or other instrument in your yard to indicate the direction of wind movement. Establishing a cross-breeze that runs through occupied parts of the home–coupled with proper shading and other strategies–can be a big step toward staying comfortable when the temperature starts to creep upward. 2. Become a Fan of Fans Ceiling and floor-based fans can create an artificial breeze when air movement is limited, and they require a lot less power to operate. A good ceiling fan will not only create movement, but also accelerate the rising of warmer air upward, away from people and pets in a room. Be sure to check the switch on the side of your ceiling fan which toggles the direction that it spins. One orientation is better for warmer weather, while the other direction will actually work to push warm air downward, which is ideal in colder seasons. 3. Bring the Swamp Indoors Evaporative cooling appliances, often called swamp coolers, can be a very cost-effective solution for more arid climates where the humidity generally stays lower. These units tend to use as little as one-fourth the energy of traditional air conditioning methods, and as an added benefit, they do not require the use of toxic chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). In a nutshell, a swamp cooler works to draw warm air from outside over a wet filter. The heat causes evaporation, reducing the temperature of that air which is then circulated by a fan in order to cool a room (or rooms). Whole-home solutions are available, as are smaller room-sized units which require no installation and might cost you less than an average monthly electric bill during the summer. 4. Lock Out the Heat Running somewhat contrary to the theory of ventilating your way to a cooler indoor climate, certain situations call for improved insulation to lock hot weather out of your home. This can be as simple as applying new weather-stripping and caulking around doors and windows to keep hot air out and cool air in, or as involved as beefing up the insulation inside your walls–a measure that will benefit your home in cold seasons as well. For starters, make sure you cover the basics: keep your fireplace flue closed, close windows which offer no cross-breeze or cooling potential and keep the front door shut when the sun is shining on that side of your home. 5. Stay Out of the Kitchen There’s a reason that summer is barbecue season. Running powerful indoor cooking appliances such as your stove or oven will create additional heat within your home. When you’re already working to fight the heat from outside, this is tantamount to stacking the deck against yourself. If you’re preparing hot food on a hot day, try to wait until the sun has started to set, or consider other means of cooking with heat, such as with slow cookers or even the microwave. If you must cook with the stove during the warm part of the day, be sure to use your range fan for ventilation. Keep boiling pots and hot pans covered to bottle in heat, which also allows you to cook food more efficiently. Finally, double-check your refrigerator coils. Clean coils help your fridge run with less effort, meaning less exhaust and less heat given off. 6. Stay in the Shade Everyone fights for those shady parking spots at the grocery store in the summer. Natural shade is one of the best ways to stay cool, and this principal can apply just as readily to your home as it does your car. Consider installing awnings over any windows that face south or west, which are the directions that allow for the greatest daytime sun exposure. Solar gain can be cut by up to 77% with proper installation, netting you utility savings as high as 33% in temperate areas. 7. Use Cooling Curtains Furthering the idea of better insulation, one easy way to keep heat from entering your home is by keeping the curtains shut. Heavier drapes do a better job of denying access to sunlight, but there are plenty of alternative options if this doesn’t suit your décor. Consider installing shutters outside the home, or even window treatments such as glazing or shading which can reduce solar gain without shrouding you in darkness. 8. Treat Your Roof to Some Cooler Coloration You probably already know that wearing a dark colored shirt in the heat only makes you hotter, while a white shirt is likelier to keep you cool. The same principles which apply to your clothes apply to your roof: lighter colors do a better job of reflecting ultraviolet rays, limiting heat absorption. Many major cities have conducted research of this very idea, the results of which are suggesting that white-painted roofs could be a step toward curbing energy consumption and fighting global warming trends. Final Word Even in the warmest climates, it’s entirely possible to remain comfortable indoors with minimal use of air conditioning. Not only do these strategies stand to save you money, but they’re a great way to make sure you’re doing your part to protect the environment. With global warming concerns threatening to increase hot weather problems in the future, it’s crucial to implement solutions which focus not only on short-term comfort, but also on long-term impact.