This year’s Farmers’ Almanac is predicting an exceptionally hot summer for most of the country. Already, across the Midwest and the South we’re seeing temperatures jump up into the 80s and 90s. For many homeowners in these areas, battling summer heat often means cranking up the A/C. Unfortunately, the price of air conditioning is high. Large A/C units that run non-stop throughout the day can severely increase monthly utilities bills, leaving many with difficult budget decisions.
We’re always looking for creative solutions to the most frustrating home ownership problems. This week, we’re trying to find out how we can stay cool without reaching for the A/C. We turned to our home improvement experts to help navigate the subject of alternate cooling methods.
You’ll find lots of creative solutions below from our network of home improvement experts. Stay tuned for our summary post at the end of the week for more tips and pictures.
What are Your Favorite Creative Cooling Solutions?
What options do homeowners have for staying cool besides air conditioning and fans?
How can design and architecture play a role in keeping temperatures lower?
For our green experts, what are the most energy efficient options for keeping a cool house and low energy bill?
Are there any emerging technologies for cooling that homeowners should pay attention to?
"Although most people like a home that is light and airy–particularly in warmer weather–light is a big source of heat, so restricting the amount of light that comes into your home is an easy way to reduce cooling costs. By closing the curtains, drawing blinds, or lowering shades during the day, you can block a lot of the radiant heat caused by sunlight. Installing light-blocking or thermal window treatments–especially on southern-facing windows–can help even more. It may not seem like much, but if you can turn your AC down a few degrees by adjusting the amount of light coming into your home, you will save money throughout the summer while keeping your home comfortable." read more
"In pre-AC days many homes had an “attic fans”–a large fan (often over 4 feet in diameter ) that was installed parallel to the floor in the ceiling. This fan would draw air through the open windows of the house and out through the attic. These worked really well on mild days, cool nights, etc. They cooled both the living area and the attic. I am advocating homeowners consider them to be an option/backup to AC. They can usually be installed for a few hundred dollars in both new construction and retrofits.
In some areas of the country you want the winter sun coming in your windows while avoiding the summer sun. Use deciduous plants that lose their leaves in the winter. In the summer you’ll get shade and in the winter, you’ll have warming sunlight. Place vertical plantings in large pots (vines on trellises etc.) in wagons/carts that can be moved during the seasons/time of day to provide best shading. Use movable screens of solar screening." read more
"The use of a radiant barrier will also assist in the summer. Some people are under the impression that radiant barriers are used solely for keeping heat in the home during the winter. This is not true. A radiant barrier also keeps the heat from coming in your home when it’s hot. Radiant barriers are usually installed in your attic. When the summer heat drills down upon the roof, the radiant barrier protects your home by bouncing the heat coming in from the roof back up. This helps keep your attic cool which, in turn, helps keep your home cooler." read more
"What a great question for summer! We know that saving money is just as important as keeping cool and all Grand View Builders designs are ENERGY STAR ™ certified which means that homeowners have energy savings built right into their home!
High-performance windows are not only beautiful, but functional! Their protective coatings and improved frame assemblies help keep the heat outside where it belongs! (Additionally, in the winter, the windows allow you to stay warm by keeping the heat inside!) They also block damaging ultraviolet sunlight, which can discolor your floors and carpets." read more
"If you have an existing home, use outdoor landscape elements, either hardscape, softscape, or a combination of the two. A couple hardscape options would be to construct a garden wall or series of garden walls 3-5 feet away from the western or southwestern facing windows and make them high enough to block the sun thus keeping the glass cool and the interior of the home cooler. The next way is to use a cedar trellis structure to achieve the same effect and plant a vine or other softscape type sun-tolerant plantings to “fill in the spaces”. These two options will not only shade the windows needed, but also provide a bit of privacy and a nice view when looking out.
In new construction, select a lot and/or orient the house to maximize the natural wind and sun patterns so that one can capture the natural breezes flowing through the home. To add further natural cooling effects, add a water feature (fountain or pond) in the path of the wind before it hits the house. This will allow the hot summer winds to naturally cool off by blowing across the water thus lowering the air temperature when entering the house." read more