Modernize is an online service that is focused on inspiring people to live more efficiently, providing their customers with expert guidance and educational tools. Erin Vaughn of Modernize, shares five green ways you can help keep your home cool for the summer time!
If your summer air conditioning costs are through the roof, get ready for some good news. There’s more to cooling a home than pumping up the AC. By adopting one of the passive cooling methods described below, you can reduce heat gains in your home and keep comfortable regardless of the weather. And that should help you cut back on the paycheck-swallowing energy bills. Here’s how!
Add an Overhang or Shade
Modern home builders frequently design green homes with overhangs, built to deflect the worst summer heat from interiors. These shades are mechanically engineered at an angle that blocks the most sun. While such overhangs can be difficult to add to an existing roof, polycarbonate sun awnings are easily retrofitted over windows and doors and can be trimmed to give you the right amount of shade—without compromising the view through your windows. According to the Department of Energy, the payback for awnings is pretty big. Shades positioned over south-facing windows reduce solar heat by up to 65 percent, while those placed over east-facing windows may deflect as much as 77 percent. Talk about having it made in the shade!
Turn on Your Fans
A central air conditioner may effectively lower your home’s temperature, but fans are a lot more effective at cooling you down fast. That’s because they work with your body’s natural cooling mechanisms (read: sweat). The moisture evaporating on your skin removes heat from the body, giving you an all-natural cool. However, if you’re like most people, you probably find it pretty uncomfortable to sit around sweating all day. But using a fan in combination with your home’s AC can help you maximize your home’s cooling potential, allowing you to raise the the thermostat up to four degrees without any noticeable difference in comfort. And that will save you energy, since a fan is a lot cheaper to operate than an AC unit. No more sweating those energy bills!
Pay Attention to Your Window Treatments
Light, gauzy curtains may be great for spring, but for summer cooling, consider switching them out with heavier materials that will block the sunlight and save you some solar heat gain in the process. Manufacturers sell a number of heat-blocking blackout curtains that can potentially help you here; these are typically backed with white plastic to reflect heat back through the window. The Department of Energy says that a medium-colored plastic-backed drapery could potentially reduce heat gains by up to 33 percent. Look for fabrics that have a thick, heavy weave and multiple pleats. That should help keep heat where it belongs: outside your home.
Reduce Heat Buildup from Appliances
Your stove, dryer, and dishwasher can all add unnecessary warmth to your home, so you may want to save the cooking and cleaning for the evening or early morning if you can. Additionally, make sure chores stay extra energy-efficient by waiting until you have a full load of laundry or dishes before you run the machine. Or try air drying dishes and hanging clothes on a line outside—there are some pretty innovative retractable clotheslines available now that allow you to set a line up on a wall or against the side of your home. And if you haven’t already, go ahead and switch out all your light bulbs with heatless LEDs—not only do they generate less heat, they last a lot longer, too!
Turn an Eye to Your Landscaping
It’s not just what happens inside your home that affects the interior temperatures. Shade from the outside can help enormously, too. In fact, effective shading can reduce surrounding temperatures by as much as nine degrees. And if your outside AC unit receives some of that shade, it may get a ten percent efficiency bump, according to the Department of Energy. Of course, trees take a while grow, so if you’re looking for some instant shade, try installing a trellis over the south or west side of your home. You can cover it with fast-growing climbing vines, such as morning glory, star jasmine, or golden hops—and as a bonus, they smell as great as they look. Beautifying your home while staying cool? Count us in!
About the Writer
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.