Cooling Your Home Naturally

Keeping cool during those hot summer months can be a real challenge and your home air-conditioner can provide some relief. However, conventional air conditioners use a significant amount of energy. Passive, or non-mechanical, cooling provides a greener alternative to air conditioning. Blocking solar heat from entering your home is the most effective method of passive cooling. Letting in cooler, outside air can also help.

Roofs. About a third of the unwanted heat that builds up in your home comes in through the roof. One good solution is to apply a reflective coating to your existing roof. Two standard roofing coatings are available at your local hardware store or lumberyard. One coating is white latex that can be applied over most common roofing materials. A second coating is asphalt based and contains glass fibers and aluminum particles. You can apply it to most metal and asphalt roofs.

Windows. Roughly 40% of the unwanted heat that builds up in your home comes in through the windows. Reflective window coatings are one way to reflect heat away from your home. These coatings are plastic sheets treated with dyes or thin layers of metal. Besides keeping your house cooler, these reflective coatings cut glare and reduce fading of furniture, draperies, and carpeting. Two main types of coatings include sun control films and combination films.

Landscaping. Shade your home and block the sun the natural and beautiful way. A well-placed tree, bush, or vine can deliver effective shade and add to the aesthetic value of your property. When designing your landscaping, use plants native to your area that can survive with minimal care. Trees that lose their leaves in the fall help cut cooling energy costs the most. When selectively placed around a house, they provide excellent protection from the summer sun and allow winter sunlight to reach and warm your house. Before digging to plant trees or shrubs, contact your local utility companies so that they can check for any buried cables in the area. Also, consider the mature height of trees and their potential interference with utility lines as they grow.

Shading. Both exterior and interior shading devices can block solar heat gain. Exterior examples include awnings, louvers, and shutters. Awnings are particularly effective because they block direct sunlight, up to 65% of solar heat gain for southern facing windows. Inside shading devices—such as draperies, blinds, or shades—are not as effective but still worthwhile.

Ventilation. Natural ventilation maintains indoor temperatures close to outdoor temperatures and helps remove heat from your home. However, only ventilate during the coolest parts of the day or night, and seal off your house from the hot sun and air during the hottest parts of the day. Ventilating your attic greatly reduces the amount of accumulated heat, which eventually works its way into the main part of your house. Ventilated attics are about 30°F cooler than unventilated attics.

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