Cool Tips To Keep Energy Costs Down
Everyone wants to stay cool during those hot summer months. Following these
tips, from "Maintain a Cool House While Keeping Costs Down" (Rutland (VT)
Herald 6/14/06), will help save money and energy and help our effort to lower
our dependency on foreign oil.
1. Start by keeping out as much heat as possible. This means making sure your
house is well insulated.
2. Keep windows and doors closed and window coverings closed during the heat of
the day. It is particularly important to cover windows during periods when
direct sunlight comes in.
3. When the sun sets and outside air is cooler than inside air, open windows and
turn on exhaust fans to move the hot air out.
4. Manage household activities to minimize heat and moisture production while
trying to cool the house.
5. Use fans to create air movement in rooms you are occupying. This won't lower
the temperature, but it will increase comfort.
6. A long-term way to make your home cooler is to plant shade trees on the south
and west side of your home. Consider trees that drop their leaves in the fall
so you can enjoy the winter sun.
7. When using air conditioning, it is worth closing your house up with storm
8. Check filters to be sure they are clean. For central air, the filters are the
same ones you check in the winter and are part of the furnace.
9. Use a set back thermostat so that the house is warmer when you aren't home
during the day but cooler when you come home.
10. Close off rooms that you aren't using and the cooling ducts to them to focus
the cool on the rooms that you are using.
How to Keep Your Cool Without Air Conditioning
from Spirit Of Change Holistic Magazine by Stan Cox (6/13)
Air conditioning plays an important role in protecting the more vulnerable
segments of our population during heat waves. But that doesn’t warrant its lavish deployment throughout society for much of the year. Whether
you live in a house on a shady lot or in a third-floor urban apartment, it’s possible to stay comfortable by reviving and updating simple hot weather
strategies that have been cast aside during the age of air conditioning. And it
can be done without costly equipment or home renovations.
The key is to focus on is people-cooling, not building-cooling. Your body is
constantly converting chemical energy from food into heat; hot and/or humid
weather makes it harder to unload that heat. But filling a home with chilled,
still, dry air around the clock is only one of the many ways by which we can
help our bodies maintain their thermal balance.
Keep air circulating. Air movement is highly effective in helping you evaporate perspiration and shed
heat. On a merely warm day, a breeze through an open window is enough to do the
job, but in truly hot weather, especially if it’s humid, turn on a fan. Ceiling fans are good, but the direct breeze from a
portable or window fan can be more effective. In summer, we have a window fan
blowing directly across our bed at night.
Don’t let the morning weather forecast scare you into reaching for the A/C switch. If all of the home’s occupants are away at work or school during the day, midday temperatures are
not very relevant. If you are going to be home all day, the predicted high
temperature or heat index may sound menacing; however, a naturally ventilated
indoor space often remains at least ten degrees cooler than the outdoor
maximum, and air movement knocks a few more degrees off the temperature your
body is actually sensing. In a closed-up, air conditioned home, a thermostat
set in the mid-to-upper eighties would create a suffocating environment — but with open windows and moving air, living in such temperatures is no sweat.
Change your location with the time of day and sun position. If you’re fortunate enough to have a basement, take advantage of the geothermal cooling
it provides. A fan enhances the effect. And if things get really tough, there’s no need to be an absolutist. For a few hours’ break, you can quickly and fairly efficiently cool down a one-room refuge with
a window air conditioner.
Reserve sedentary activities for the hottest part of the day. When physical work is called for, just accept that you may need to wring out
your shirt afterward. Don’t do your running or other exercise at three in the afternoon under a broiling
sun, but don’t do it in an air conditioned health club either. Research shows that regular
exertion in the heat builds the body’s tolerance, helping you function better in hot weather.
Don’t make extra heat. Remember that any energy-consuming household device releases waste heat. Plan
meals that involve less cooking; cut back on boiling and baking, especially.
Keep the dishwasher and any unneeded lights turned off. Use solar technology — a clothesline — to dry the laundry. And take cold or lukewarm showers to avoid burdening your
indoor atmosphere with a big load of humidity.
Get wet. High humidity may be the enemy, but water in liquid form is an essential ally.
When it’s feasible, hit the lake or local swimming pool with your friends and neighbors.
When it’s not (and if water supplies are sufficient), nothing cools like the old garden
hose or lawn sprinkler.
Stay near plants. Head to the woods, where it always feels cooler. Plants can cool twice — by blocking sunlight and by absorbing heat as they transpire water. If you have
a yard, you can further reduce the peak indoor temperature by creating more
shade. If possible, have trees, especially to the south and west. If that’s not possible, a dense stand of other kinds of tall plants — giant reed (Arundo donax) or sunflowers, for example — can be tall enough by July to shade the sun-baked sides of the house. We have
grapevines covering a couple of windows.
Bring in the night air. If, when the sun starts going down, the outdoor temperature drops below that in
the house, it’s a signal to pull in some of that outdoor air. Use a whole-house or attic fan
if you have one; otherwise, set up one window fan blowing in and another out.
Meet your neighbors. Especially in the evening, spend time under a shade tree, patio umbrella or
screen porch, or head for the neighborhood park. Using natural cooling can help
reverse the trend toward isolation from neighbors and nature that has
characterized the age of air conditioning.
The most important adjustment to be made is not in the thermostat but in our own
view of what constitutes comfort. When people say they couldn’t survive without air conditioning, they tend to be thinking about the last time
they dashed from a sun-baked parking lot into a chilled home or business. But
focusing on those extremes ignores a wide range of perfectly livable, pleasant
environments that come at a much lower cost to you and the planet.
Stan Cox is the author of Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our
Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer). His
website is www.LosingOurCool.com. This article originally appeared in YES!
Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas
with practical actions. Visit www.yesmagazine.org.