Grasshoppers clicking, frogs chirping, air conditioners whirring — not all the sounds of summer are sustainable. That’s because cooling off by cranking the AC devours energy and worsens the climate crisis by releasing greenhouse gasses known as hydrofluorocarbons. Fortunately, there are strategies to be sustainable without breaking a sweat (or too much of a sweat, anyway). Remember, before air conditioning became commonplace, many of these same methods kept households and their occupants cool and comfortable. From optimizing natural ventilation to embracing the power of shade, consider these eco-friendly solutions — both high-tech and low-tech — to keep you and the planet from getting scorched.
Embrace natural ventilation
One of the most effective and sustainable ways to cool your home is to take advantage of natural ventilation. During cooler morning and evening hours, open windows and doors to allow cross breezes. This way you can create a stream of fresh air to keep your house at a modest temperature. Also, positioning fans strategically can enhance circulation. Place them near windows to help generate airflow. Set your ceiling fans to rotate counterclockwise in the summer to push cool air downward. If you are using the AC, consider adding fans along with higher thermostat settings to maintain comfort while reducing the reliance on air conditioning. Who knows — you might be able to wean yourself off relying on AC altogether, saving both energy and money.
Seek out the shade
Before they could refrigerate their homes, people could find relief in the cool shade under large, leafy trees. Little has changed. Shade is your ally when keeping your home cool during summer. Planting trees strategically around your home can provide shade naturally, reducing solar heat gain, blocking UV rays, and lowering indoor temperatures. Another tip? Install UV-blocking window coverings such as blinds, curtains, or reflective films to prevent direct sunlight from entering your living spaces. Additionally, ensure your home is well-insulated to minimize heat transfer, which can keep cool air in and hot air out.
Use technology to keep cool
Smart home technologies offer innovative ways to cool your house sustainably. Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats allow you to control your cooling system remotely, ensuring it operates efficiently and is only active when needed. Some smart thermostats even learn your preferences and adjust settings automatically to optimize energy usage. Check out these energy-saving technologies to achieve a comfortable living environment during the hottest months, and reduce your carbon footprint.
Optimize nighttime temperatures to cool down rooms
Take advantage of cooler nighttime temperatures. Just as you do during the day, use open windows and fans to draw in cooler air during the night — then close the windows and blinds in the morning to trap the cool air inside. Besides, using air conditioning all night can negatively affect your health, so it’s not a bad idea to avoid it whenever possible.
Use your home appliances efficiently
Here’s one way to cool down your house you might not have thought about. Appliances generate heat, so use them sparingly. Run ovens, dryers, and dishwashers during cooler hours. You can also turn to energy-efficient appliances that produce less heat. Using a microwave or outdoor grill will also minimize indoor heat buildup.
Construct your own air conditioner
You don’t need electricity or mechanical parts to fashion a home-made, eco-friendly air conditioner. Simply fill a pan or bowl with ice in front of a portable fan and enjoy as the fan sweeps the ice-chilled breeze through your living spaces.
Invest in insulated window treatments
Beyond curtains, investing in energy-saving window treatments that block heat and UV rays is an excellent strategy to avoid relying on air conditioning. Cellular shades, for example, can trap air and provide insulation, reducing heat transfer. Additionally, window films with UV-blocking properties can prevent solar heat gain while still allowing natural light in.
Consider heat-reflecting roofing materials
Cooling your house doesn’t have to begin and end indoors. Applying a reflective coating to your roof — or installing a new one if you’re especially ambitious — can keep your home from soaking up too much sun.
Optimize energy efficiency
Increasing energy efficiency will contribute to a cooler and more sustainable living environment. Make the switch to energy-efficient lighting, appliances, and electronics. Use smart power strips to eliminate phantom power and reduce standby energy consumption. Unplug chargers and devices when not in use. By minimizing energy waste, you keep your home comfortable and reduce your environmental impact.
Looking for more ways to beat the heat sustainably? From what to wear to how to cook, check out these lifestyle hacks for a refreshing and responsible summer season.