Cool Down Without Breaking the Bank

Low Cost Alternatives for Cooling Your Home

As a result of rising energy costs, concerns about global warming, and other housing restrictions, air-conditioning is simply not an option for many people. This situation can prove challenging, especially in the summer when heat becomes trapped indoors. Fortunately, there are a number of simple, low-cost alternatives for keeping your home cool and comfortable when temperatures start to rise.

Passive Cooling:*

An alternative way to maintain a cool house or reduce the use of air-conditioning is to use natural (or passive) cooling. Passive cooling uses non-mechanical methods to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. These methods include:

> Reflecting Heat – The most effective method to cool your home is to keep the heat from building up in the first place. The primary source of heat buildup is sunlight absorbed by your house through the roof, walls, and windows. Using light colored paints on these surfaces as well as special reflective coatings and films can make a significant difference in the temperature of your home.

> Ventilating to Remove Warm Air - One of the simplest things you can do to cool down your home is to force existing warm air out and encourage cool air to enter. This can be accomplished naturally by ventilating the home during the coolest parts of the day or night, and sealing it off during the hottest parts. The type of climate you live in will determine the ideal time to ventilate.

> Reducing Heat Generating Sources – Incandescent lamps and household appliances such as ovens, dishwashers, and dryers are the number one culprits when it comes to generating additional heat in the home. By restricting the use of these devices during the hottest part of the day or purchasing more energy-efficient models, you can significantly reduce the temperature in your home.

Mechanical Alternatives:

Although these passive strategies will help, there may be days when they are not enough. Sometimes you’ll need to supplement natural cooling with mechanical devices. Oscillating and ceiling fans are a popular mechanical alternative to air-conditioning. Fans make you feel cooler (their effect is equivalent to lowering the air temperature by about 4° F or 2° C) and they may be installed and operated for a fraction of the cost of air-conditioning.

Whole House Fans

A whole-house fan is typically placed in the ceiling of the home and works by sucking hot air out of the building and forcing it into the attic. This displaces the very hot air trapped in the attic (which is pushed out of vents in the roof). Then, with windows and/or doors open to the outside, the whole-house fan draws cooler outside air into the building to replace the hot air (creating a cooling breeze). Spring-mounted “louvers” on the fan allow air to flow into the attic and automatically snap back into a closed position when the device is turned off, preventing cold attic air from leaking into the home during the winter.

Whole house ventilation fans are available through most home centers, lumberyards, and plumbing and electrical retailers, typically by special order. Your dealer can help you with sizing and locating the units for best performance. Complete instructions are provided with the unit, but you may need to consult with a qualified contractor and / or a licensed electrician before installation.

*For a more detailed look at passive cooling, see Reflection & Ventilation – A Two Step Strategy for Cooling Your Home