If you want to cut back on air conditioning, or if you live or want to live without air conditioning altogether, you can keep your house cooler by doing a few simple things.
Draw the shades. First, shade windows that get sunshine. Watch during the day and as soon as (or before) the sun begins to shine through the windows, close the blinds or drapes. If you’re not going to be home all day, keep the windows covered until you get home.
Find shade outside. The temperature is from 10 to 20 degrees cooler in the shade of a tree, so if you don’t have a tree that shades your home, think about planting one. Look at the area where the sun hits the house during the hottest part of the season, then plant a tree that will shade it. If you can’t plant a tree, plant vines that you can train to cover the place where the sun shines the hottest. Many vines will grow in containers if you can’t dig up the yard for them.
If you can’t do anything to the outside, do it to the inside. Vines trained to grow in a window will shade a room, too, and breathe out cool air. You will still need to close the blinds or drapes, but the vine will provide added shade and will shade the room at those times when you forget or are late.Â Houseplants all expire cooler air than the room temperature, so adding other houseplants will help, too.
Lighten up. Summertime colors are traditionally white and pastel for a reason. These light colors reflect the light rather than absorb it. We wear them; why not let your home wear them? Put light colored slip covers on upholstered furniture and replace throw or area rugs with lighter colors. While the colors will not retain heat, it could be that their greatest value is in our perception. Lighter colors look cooler than darker ones.
Close the door! Don’t leave the refrigerator door open longer than it takes to get what you need, no matter how good that cold air feels! If the inside of the refrigerator gets warm, of course, the refrigerator turns on to cool it – and warms the air around it as it runs.
Unplug it. Unplug your tv and and computer when they’re not in use. Both the tv and computer generate a lot of heat and they waste a lot of electricity just sitting there waiting to come on when the button is pushed. If you keep them on a power strip, you can turn the power strip off instead of having to unplug them.
Light up smartly. Switch to flourescent light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. They’re a lot cooler.
Don’t cook indoors. That’s probably what they call a no-brainer, but even a quick meal can put out quite a bit of heat and even the microwave emits warm air.
Not many houses have summer kitchens any more, but you can take advantage of the garage or any other area
Move air. Use a fan before you turn on the air conditioner. Circulating air will make you feel cooler whether the temperature drops or not.
Solar attic fans, while not the cheapest route, are a solid investment in keeping your home cooler and reducing heating and cooling costs throughout the year.
Air conditioning is a relatively recent invention that we’ve come to rely on, but if you want to cut back on electricity or live without it, you can keep your house cooler with a little thought and effort.
Note: This article was first published in Aug. 2010.