With record temperatures arriving each successive year, we’re being slowly cooked by the rays of the sun. Meanwhile, energy is getting more expensive, and utility bills are jumping through the roof. We’re all looking for ways to keep the heat at bay, while also not spending our last dime on damaging air conditioning units that poison the planet even as they drain our bank accounts. The answer is in green cooling mechanics, thinking outside the window box, and finding some serious science to chill our homes.
To that end, we consulted with modern magicians to find 17 sustainable methods for cooling down our homes and apartments that are as cheap as possible.
When you don’t have natural shade, then it’s time to make your own. By adding a stylish awning to the front or sides of your house, you can drop the exposure to the sun and keep the heat from baking your walls and windows. Apartment dwellers can just shade their windows using small personal awnings or towels propped up.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright said that while a doctor can bury his mistakes, an architect can only plant vines. By getting creepers that climb walls, you can not only create a stylish way to hide unsightly siding, but prevent sunlight from reaching your walls, thus cooling your home down.
Similar to the awning method and the vines, external blinds or shutters painted in a light color stop the sun from getting where it doesn’t belong. These create a slight buffer between the hot air outside, and the cooler air inside. That alone is enough to buy you several degrees.
Homes that have an attic are cursed. The hot, still air has nowhere to go and acts like a heating coil for the rest of the home. As the upper reaches of the house get hot, they warm up everything. By letting this air out, you reduce the heat bleed.
Fan Your Attic
Vents are good, a fan designed specifically to push out hot air is even better. A good attic fan is inexpensive and will save you from a sweaty attic should you decide to use it for storage or hiding your collection of creepy dolls. Even better, many now come with their own solar panel for power.
You have to be careful here, since warm air that is moist is way worse than the “dry” heat that people insist on talking about. Using a cool mist humidifier, you can keep pleasant wetness going all day long. Avoid warm mist units or vaporizers, as they’ll add to your problem. For bonus points, add a little ice to the reservoir. You can also hang a damp sheet over a window for the same basic effect.
Peppermint or Eucalyptus Oil
For helping cool the home, peppermint oils or eucalyptus can be put into a humidifier. For cooling a person, apply directly to the skin with a little water. They open the pores creating a greater sense of cool and allowing more heat to escape your body.
The word “insulation” tends to make people think of retaining hot air, but it works both ways. The point of insulation is to keep a particular temperature locked down. During the summer months, this means having cooler air kept indoors, which uses the exact same insulation and weather-proofing that holds warm air in during the winter. Cost free and great year-round.
These dark shades are inexpensive and can be applied to every window. They provide not only tinting for privacy, but avoid letting the sun shine through, keeping heat to a minimum. They won’t block out the light like blinds, so you can still enjoy the view, and are easily removed for winter.
Believe it or not, there was a time when no one had air conditioning. During those dark ages, people learned to “tune” their windows thus creating airflow. Learning to do this takes a little practice. You can start by opening lower windows to let cool air in, and higher windows on the opposite side of the house to let hot air out. For more detail, we suggest using Lifehacker’s guide to cooling with windows.
Ice Your Windows
If you tend to leave your windows open during the summer, consider putting ice packs or blocks in each one. That way, as the breeze blows across them, it cools down. You’ll need to re-freeze them on a daily basis, but it keeps the fresh air flowing with an added touch of frostiness.
Ice Your Fans
Just like putting ice packs into your windows, strapping some frozen bits to each fan in your home will make them blow more refreshing air all day long. That drops the temperature and makes them all into miniaturized swamp coolers.
Shut the Shades
A pretty simple concept, but one that most people don’t realize. If you have your windows open, keep any part covered that isn’t absolutely necessary for airflow. Windows cost you cold air as much as warm, so prevent the sun from gaining access. If you don’t want to live in the dark, aim for solar shades or put awnings over your windows to stop direct sunshine from baking you alive.
Quit Cooking Inside
Pressure cookers, microwaves, and other appliances that cook with minimal heat help prevent your stove or oven from adding to your suffering. Doing more outdoor grilling will help, as will only cooking when it’s cool out. Make up potato salad or pasta in the morning so you’re not firing up the burners in the afternoon. Just be careful with burning charcoal or gas, as they can be environmentally unfriendly.
Every light bulb in your home produces heat as it keeps things bright inside. While you might not think about it, these can cost you a few degrees and nullify your other heat-beating methods. Smart LED lights help, though the best answer is to learn to work with less illumination. For rooms with multiple lights, consider taking out all but the bare necessities while it’s warm.
Paint It White
Slapping a coat of white paint onto your roof or giving the walls of your house a summer makeover can do a lot toward eliminating heat on the inside. Light colors reflect heat so it can’t get trapped inside. It’s a lot of work, and only viable if your home really needs to be painted, making it a last resort. Especially if you’re lazy when the sun shines.
Soda Bottle Air Conditioner
A relatively new idea, we can vouch for how well this works. By using a hunk of particle board or plywood and a set of 2-liter soda bottles with the bottoms cut off, you can cool down a room or a whole home. The principle is the same as if you blow through pursed lips. The air is cool. Here’s simple instructions on how to build an energy-free soda bottle A/C, even if you aren’t handy.