Keep Cool Without Using Air Conditioning

From Wired How-To Wiki

Anyone who lives in a temperate climate knows at least a half-dozen ways to keep cool when the mercury starts rising. A new pair of sandals, an icy margarita, meeting your friends at the pool — there are a lot of great ways to lower your body temperature. But we consider these just a starting point. You can’t always dip out of work and lounge in a beach chair whenever you get a little sweaty, so we’ve gathered a few methods that will help you lower your energy bill and save the planet.

This how-to was written by Adrienne So, a Wired contributor, freelance writer, and world traveler from Portland Oregon.

Architectural Modifications

According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a single-family home spends around $2,200 a year in annual energy costs. This high figure seems even higher when you realize that a shockingly low amount of new construction takes into account factors like orientation and window placement. A few large windows on the south side of your house will turn it into an oven (with a great view!) in the summer.

Even if you don’t have the option of building your house from scratch, you can still put together plenty of architectural hacks that will prevent the sunlight from entering your home. Awnings and pergolas can shield your windows and can decrease your house’s solar gain by up to 90%. Shutters can also prevent light from entering your house, although curtains and rolling blinds will do the trick in a pinch.

Strategic landscaping can also help you minimize your energy bill. A t tree is by far the most efficient energy-saving device you can possibly buy. In cooler weather, its leaves shed and allow weak winter sunlight to reach your house. But in hotter temperatures, its full-leafed glory might make the difference between having to purchase an A/C unit or doing without. Trees pump moisture from the ground into their leaves to cool themselves during the hot months. That moisture has the added benefit of cooling the surrounding areas as well. If you have the option, deciduous trees are far more effective planted on the south and west sides than on the north or east sides.

Use Props

Although fans are effective at moving air, strategic placement can help them do their job. Place one fan in one windowsill, facing inward. On a window opposite — if you have one — place another fan, facing outwards. This helps create cross-ventilation in the room, pulling cooler air in and forcing warmer air out. A thermometer inside and outside your house can help you verify that the cooler air is moving in the correct direction. Putting a bowl of ice or a frozen water bottle in front of a fan facing inward is a common trick. For the even more ambitious, try constructing your own homemade swamp cooler.

Strip the rugs from rooms with tile or wood floors. Instead of lining your shelves with knick-knacks that gather dust and reflect sunlight, try buying a few potted plants to place on your windowsills. A white-noise machine that generates the sounds of waves or rain might also lull you into thinking you’re cooler.

Humidity also makes the temperature seem a lot higher than it is. Hopefully, you’re already saving the showering and laundry for cooler times of the day. But consider investing in a dehumidifier if you live in a particularly muggy climate.

Apply Common Sense

Most of the energy-saving tactics that you use — or fail to use — during the rest of the year will also help you cut down on the heat in your home. Most appliances, including computers, televisions and dishwashers, all give off heat even when they’re not in use. Switch them off, or use a power strip in order to turn them all again more easily once the sun goes down. Don’t use your stove to cook during the day. Switch to salads and sandwiches — which, in addition to saving you money in energy costs, will also help lower your personal body temperature. If you must heat up that fried chicken from last week’s barbecue, use your energy-efficient microwave.

It may be counter-intuitive, but insulating your attic will help cut down on energy costs over the summer. Attic insulation prevents the heat from escaping during the winter; conversely, it also prevents heat from entering in the summer. Switch out your heat-generating incandescent bulbs for cooler fluorescent ones, or leave the lights off during the day whenever possible.


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