The irony of air conditioning in a warming world couldn’t be more poignant. As the thermometer climbs across the globe, under a thickening blanket of CO2 emissions, the first reaction is to flip on the air con. That sucks greedily on the mains, requiring more energy, producing more CO2 emissions, and so leading to warmer global temperatures – a long-lead but inexorable vicious circle. And in the US, the average home uses some 16% of its energy powering air con, according to the EIA.
So if you have your eyes cast warily on where carbon emissions are taking the planet, finding a solution for the air con paradox is a important. We want to keep cool at the height of summer, but we want the planet to stop warming too. As with many technology fixes, however, air con isn’t as irreplaceable as we sometimes think. There are solutions to keeping cool, as the mercury rises, that don’t have to see your level of discomfort rise too. And they’ve been around as long as humans have lived in warm climes.
Good design is inevitably the best way to ensuring that your home handles heat well. Thick solid walls, reduced window size, especially on south facing walls, and roofs that can be used for sleeping on – these are all approaches known about for millenia. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the luxury of rebuilding our houses. But strategies for keeping cool can be found for even the most unpromising of abodes.
A cool house starts in the garden. If you can break up the incoming sunlight with solidly rooted trees, flowering shrubs and climbers, you’ll find much less heat penetrates through to you house. Vines growing up the southern front of your house can make a huge difference, covering up exposed walls – which would otherwise carry heat through to the inside of the house.
Homes also become uncomfortably hot because of the greenhouse effect – the one before it became commonly used in discussions on global warming. Sunlight comes streaming in through windows, with all of its bounty of thermal energy – but then it’s trapped, and can’t get out. So your home immediately starts to heat up. And if there isn’t a breeze to remove the heat being stored, it builds, and floats upstairs – making your bedrooms unbearably hot at night-time.
You can knock that effect on its head pretty easily, by careful window and breeze management, taking advantage of the natural cycles of heat and cool during the day. The first thing you need to do each morning is to close and shutter windows, and to draw the blinds. That stops the sunlight getting in. You might want to leave curtains on north-facing windows partially open, so some light filters into the house.
Then, as dusk approaches, un-shutter the windows, and throw everything wide open. Now you want to encourage the breezes to move in, especially upstairs. A cool night-scented air will almost certainly be much better for your sleep than the artificial chill of air con. Once you’ve got that basic cycle flowing each day, there are other things you can do to stop the heat building in your home.
Electrical devices are definite no-no; TVs, computers, ovens – all of these will build up the heat budget under your roof, so try to have as many of these turned off during the day as possible. There’s no need to be slumped indoors in front of digital entertainment. Don’t forget, cooking al fresco is one of the joys of a hot summer.
Finally don’t neglect adjusting your own personal comfort zone. There’s a lot you can do to keep yourself cool, just by sensibly managing what you do when it’s hot. Having a ceiling fan going, when you’re in the room, will keep the air moving. But don’t have the fans in all of your rooms on – remember they produce their own heat from electrical motors, and also consume power.
There are many sensible tips that can make a big difference through the day. Things like staying out of the sun, not being too active when the heat is at its height, and making imaginative use of cool water sprays. And if things are really getting too hot to handle, a cool shower is bound to do the trick, reducing your core body temperature, and leaving you feeling refreshed.
None of this is rocket science – and relearning these tricks will hopefully put you in the cool when it comes to a warming planet.
This is a guest post by Ally who owns a website focusing on selling high quality adjustable dumbbells