The Summer heat and stickiness is here, and air conditioners and fans across the northern hemisphere are swirling like there's no tomorrow. And like there's no energy bill arriving in our inbox next month. Have you noticed how dependent we've become on air conditioning? Remember when we were growing up and had to make do with hanging out in the basement to keep cool?
To simplify our lives and lessen the impact to our bank accounts and the planet, let's consider moving back to the simpler ways that our parents and grandparents used to keep our homes cool. Maybe you don't need to give up the AC altogether and live underground, but solutions that keep the heat out of your home in the first place will dramatically reduce the need for energy-sucking machines.
1. Curtains or blinds can block up to 60% of solar gain, so it really does make sense to use blinds or drapes through the summer. Be sure to have fabric drapes or roman blinds made with a liner for added insulation and also to protect fabric from fading. Keep the blinds closed when the sun is at its strongest in the afternoon.
2. Keep windows shut during the day and open at night. Yep, it's that simple and it works. Make it even more effective by opening the bottom portion of double hung windows that are on the side of the house where the breeze is coming from, to let the cool air in, and opening the top half of windows on the downwind side of the house to let hot air out. Heat rises, so naturally the hot air will escape easier from the top half of double hung windows.
3. Awnings installed over windows with southern exposure can decrease solar gain by as much as 65%. There are some nice options available ranging from built-in roofing to retractable fabric awnings.
4. Plant trees and vines. Climbing vines are surprisingly effective at keeping a house cool, and you can ask the nursery for varieties that won't hurt the siding or grout between brick. Trees and shrubs strategically planted to shade southern windows and your outdoor heat pump can also make a big difference on your energy bill.
5. Cook outside. There's a reason old homes used to have 'outside kitchens' - it was to keep the heat out of the main part of the house. Take advantage of summer to stock up on fresh local veggies for outdoor grilling and salad making.
Let's keep both our homes and the Earth cool by choosing simple and eco-friendly options more often. Check out some of these lovely ideas and resources for helping you keep the heat out this summer.