Summer is just around the corner, which means longer daylight, more time outside, and warmer weather. For some of us, that means much warmer weather, prompting a habitual air-conditioning crank during the day to come home to a nice, cool house after hours of soaking up the sun. Anyone who’s seen an electricity bill before knows that this modern comfort comes at a pretty hefty price. A/C is not only expensive, but it is an inefficient use of energy that is harsh on the environment. Fortunately, there are some practical steps you can implement to reduce A/C usage and stay cool as the world heats up. If you’re like me and don’t have an A/C unit, here are some ways to mitigate your living quarters’ heat-trapping effects.
Pull down shades or tilt the blinds
This is simple enough, but the effectiveness is commonly overlooked. Stepping under the shade of a tree outside blocks direct sunlight. The same logic translates to shades and blinds; it keeps direct sunlight out of a home, therefore cooling it down.
Tilt blinds upwards and pull down shades in the morning. This will keep the sun’s rays at bay as it rises to its peak during the afternoon.
Windows offer more than just light and aesthetics to a home. This sophisticated ventilation technology, when used properly, can increase airflow in your home and inexpensively cool it down.
Remember how heat rises? If you live in a two-story home or apartment, you’ve experienced this real time; the upper level is a sauna compared to the lower level in the summer. This is where the ingenious-yet-simple window technology is called to action. High and double-hung windows allow you to utilize air pressure, wind, and temperature to your benefit. Opening high windows lets hot air vent out. More than that, if you have double-hung windows, opening the top portion on the downwind side of your home and the bottom portion at the upwind side of your home creates cross-ventilation, bringing cool air in and pushing hot air out.
If you got a little lost in the technical language, no worries. Downwind is a fancy term for the direction the wind is blowing, and upwind is just the opposite. If that language wasn’t technical enough for you, this process is also known as Bernoulli’s principle, the relationship between pressure and the velocity of a moving fluid.
Don’t cook hot food inside
Warm soups and stews aren’t popular summer foods, and for good reason. Colder foods like salads and sandwiches are staples in my June - August cuisine. This is due in part to how hot my home gets when I use the oven or stovetop. Running AC during the day and using the oven is counterproductive- you’re paying for the A/C to work harder to remove heat you created. If you don’t have AC, this just adds unwanted heat to your living space.
For those who have one, grilling food is a great option. If you have to use the oven or stove, try to hold out until the sun goes down to help reduce the effects.
Planting trees and vines
If you can, strategically planting trees and vines around your living quarters is a great way cool down and insulate a building. Trees and vines can block direct sunlight and shade parts of your home, naturally mitigating the rising temperature. Planting greenery to help cool down areas is so successful that city planning committees are working to increase the number of trees planted in cities to curb the urban heat island effect.
This tip is a win-win. Planting greenery helps cool your living space down while positively impacting the environment.
We’re all excited to transition out of the cold weather and into many months of sunshine. Hopefully these practical and sustainable tips prepare you for when the heat becomes a little too unbearable.