stay cool

Stay Cool, Save Money

June is here and hot summer temperatures are knocking at the front door. In many parts of the country, air conditioning systems are all but required for keeping a house comfortable. In more temperate areas, homeowners sweat out a few hot ones to avoid dropping money on new cooling systems. But there’s more than one way to cool a cat and we’re interested in creative ways homeowners can beat the heat without the use of A/C.

Why We’re Asking:

Air conditioning has gotten better over the years, but it still uses tons of energy when compared to more passive cooling methods that are easier on the environment and on your wallet. Our experts represent a variety of industries, from electricians to designers and from plumbers to professional organizers. We’re excited to find out how architects keep homes cool with open floor plans and creative air flows. We want to explore the ways roofers reduce heat with better insulation. In short, we want to find out how our experts are cooling the country, one home improvement project at a time.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

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?

We don’t just want to hear about your solutions, we want to see them! If you have pictures or examples of your favorite cooling ideas, send them to and we’ll feature them in our final summary post.

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!

  • Alan Hilsabeck Jr, CMKBD 06/04/12

    Whether one has an existing home or are in the planning stages of a new home, there are several creative tips that can help “Beat the Heat” in these dog days of summer and get great design to boot.
    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 thus your 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 vista when looking out.
    In new construction, select a lot and or place the home’s orientation to maximize the natural Wind and Sun patterns so that one can capture the natural breezes flowing through the home while the orientation and placement of the windows is not in direct line with the west or southwest sun angles. To even 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.
    The last thing one could do is to plant a tree or trees. This not only is a great way to “be green” but also will provide a beautiful shade element(s) to the overall landscaping of the home.
    All of these options can be easily designed and added and or planned into the overall home design providing great architectural feature(s) while keeping the home cool. Now its time to go inside and fix a tall glass of ice cold lemonade. Stay cool!

  • Jill Banks @ Happily Better After Room Redesign & Home Staging 06/05/12

    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.

  • Pablo Solomon 06/05/12

    Alan has some great ideas. Here are a few more to think about.
    1. 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. Can usually be installed for a few hundred dollars either new construction or retro.

    2. In some areas of the country you want the winter sun coming in your windows while avoiding the summer sun. I have used several solutions–
    a. Use deciduous plants to provide shade in the summer that loose their leaves in the winter and allow the sun in.
    b. Have 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.
    c.Have movable screens of solar screening.

    3. If your climate has low humidity the old time “swamp” coolers work well.

    4. Mist your walks, walls, roof, etc. for a few minutes during the heat of the day. I use water collected from rain water to water my plants and to cool down walls. Do not waste water. But in a really hot climate the savings in heat reduction can justify some water usage. What you use on this, balance off by using plantings that are drought resistant.

  • Sam @ ServiceMaster by Best 06/05/12

    I can think of 3 things. I know you do not want to hear about fans, but in most home there are 2 cost effective ways to reduce cooling costs and both have to do with fans and proper ventilation that most homes do not have.
    1. Install a whole house ventilation fan. These can suck the warm air out of the house in a few minutes and significantly change the temperature and feel of the indoor environment.
    2. Install a roof vent fan. This will increase the flow of air from the attic through the roof and thus keep the attic cooler and thus the whole house is cooler.
    I installed both of these over the past 2 years and seen a drop in the use of our air conditioning unit. Cost and savings numbers are not calculated, but I hope to see some small results at least.
    3. If you can afford to, consider a geo-thermal unit. I would love to have one installed, but my budget does not permit at this moment. I am certain at some point I will.
    Happy Cooling!!!

  • Lindsey @ Unique Home Solutions 06/06/12

    The use of a radiant barrier will also assist in the summer. Some people are under the impression that radiant barrier is used solely for keeping heat in the home during the winter. This is not true, radiant barrier keeps the heat from coming in your home from the outside. Radiant Barrier is similar to a foil that is 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 prevents your attic from becoming as hot which then protects your home from rising temperatures. When your home does not heat up as quickly, the air conditioning does not have to work as hard.

  • Jason Todd @ GreenHomes America 06/06/12

    For as long as there has been sun to hide from, people have sought cooler spaces to wait out the worst of the summer heat. For many, popping in a window AC unit has been the quick answer. Others have central air, and some pull the shades down, turn on all the fans. No matter how you cool the air, the trick is to keep it cool, or not let it get hot in the first place.

    Designing for shading can help increase our comfort greatly. The angle of the sun is different in the summer than the winter, and proper shading with structure, or plantings, can reduce the amount that hits the home—especially windows. I’ve heard it said that if engineers designed houses there would be no windows. So we sacrifice a view for some heat transfer. I like the view.

    The real secret for staying cool is related to the fact that we live in boxes. Unfortunately, boxes that are more often like steamer trunks than beer coolers. (Ever try keeping a block of ice from melting in an old trunk? Good for old quilts but not your preferred cold beverage.) We need to focus more on the beer cooler model.
    When the surrounding air is hot, ice will melt. A cooler will slow melting in two ways: First, insulation resists the transfer of heat, in this case into the box. This illustrates the need for insulation in our walls, our attics, and maybe our floors too—likely more than you think.

    The other benefit of a cooler for keeping drinks cold is the option to keep the lid closed: that controls airflow. Every time you open that lid, warm air washes through the cooler. The same goes for our houses. We need to go in and out of our houses, but we don’t need all the air exchanges from the many small leaks in the attic, the floors, and in the walls. They add up.

    Stay cool; insulate and air seal. You may not need the AC at all.

  • Grand View Builders 06/07/12

    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! These are not options but come standard, which means that no matter what model you choose, you get the most energy efficient technology possible.

    Our 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. If you would like a look, see our beautiful work contact Grand View Builders!

  • DeckTec Outdoor Designs 06/08/12

    Our favorite way to keep a home cooler in the heat of summer has always been to add a patio or deck cover. When installed on a west or south facing deck, this cover will reduce energy costs by providing shade. Instead of closing drapes and windows against the summer sun, you can open them to fresh air and cooling breezes, reduce air conditioning needs and enjoy the view. Since we recommend installing on a south/west exposure, we open up opportunities to install solar panels so our customers can go green.

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