Keep It Cool

By Kristen Castillo

March 20, 2018 4 min read

Hot houses are great for growing tomatoes, but they're very uncomfortable for people. What can you do when you want to lower the temperature inside your home?

Air conditioning is an option, but it has its challenges: It can be expensive to install and pricey to use, too.

"Climate change is causing temperatures to soar every summer, driving up air conditioning energy use, which further fuels climate change," says Greer Ryan, renewable energy and research specialist for Center for Biological Diversity, who notes you'll save money and energy by avoiding using air conditioning.

Staying cool inside without AC is possible but it takes some planning.

*Stay in the Shade

Retiree Rae Anne Campellone lives in the Southwest and describes the weather as "brutally hot."

She recommends planting trees on your property to shade your home.

"I added 15 trees, which shade the south and west sides of my home, and solar screens on every window, which cut down on the heat," says Campellone, who does use air conditioning but keeps her thermostat set at 78 degrees all summer.

She also removed the carpeting in her house and replaced it with tile, which keeps the flooring cool.

*Sun Block

"South and west-facing rooms are the trickiest to keep cool," says Richard Ciresi, owner of Aire Serv. "Draw the shades over the windows to reduce heat and sunlight coming in from outside."

Go a step further by hanging curtains that stop those rays.

Light-blocking curtains like those made by Eclipse have two layers of thick fabric that work to keep sun and heat out. Eclipse says its curtains, "block over 99 percent of intrusive light, increase savings by lowering energy costs, reduce unwanted noise, increase quality of sleep and reduce stress levels."

Even without light-blocking curtains, it's smart to close curtains, blinds and shades during the weather.

Another product that promises to control heat, 3M Sun Control Window Film, is designed to reject 97 percent of infrared light. The film, applied to the inside of windows, says it will lower energy costs while still maintaining natural light aesthetics in a room.

*Fan Fanfare

Cool off rooms with fans. For a breeze, make sure ceiling fans are positioned so the air blows downward.

"Running a fan is one of the most convenient and effective ways to keep a room cool in summer without AC," says Ciresi.

While a fan doesn't actually reduce the temperature, it makes dealing with the heat easier.

"The wind chill effect makes you feel about four degrees cooler, which can make an 84-degree house feel like a much more bearable 80 degrees."

Don't forget to turn off the fan when you leave the room. You'll save energy.

At night, put fans in the windows to draw in colder outside air.

If you have an attic fan, open the windows and run the fan at night. Turn it off in the morning and be sure to close the windows early in the day to keep the cold air indoors.

*Bright Idea

Even swapping out light bulbs can help a house stay more comfortable.

"Switch out fluorescent lights for CFLs," suggests Ryan. "Not only do CFLs use less energy, they also radiate less heat."

*Minimize Interior Heat

Do your best to not create more heat inside the home.

"Avoid using appliances that radiate excess heat during the day, such as ovens," says Ryan.

Instead of baking dinner or using the stove, use microwaves and slow cookers for hot meals, or grill outside. Inside, prepare cold meals like salads, sandwiches and other foods that don't require heating.

Doing laundry, especially using a dryer, can warm up the house, too. The smart solution is to wash and dry clothes at night; or use drying racks indoors or clotheslines outside to dry clothes.

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