The average price of electricity for homeowners has risen from 7.83 cents per kilowatt-hour in 1990 to 11.51 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2009. And since pretty much all types of energy have become more expensive in recent years, it’s best if homeowners look for ways to reduce the costs of energy wherever they can.
Luckily, reducing the cost of energy for your home often means helping the environment: it’s a win-win situation! This is especially true when it comes to cooling your home. Air conditioning is one of the most energy-intensive items we use around the home, particularly since we usually don’t actually need it to get by. Using natural cooling techniques in your home rather than constantly running the central A/C is one of the easiest ways to go green and save green.
What is passive cooling?
According to the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy report, the best way to naturally cool your home is through passive cooling. Essentially, passive cooling means that you use non-mechanical options for keeping the indoor temperature in your home at a comfortable level throughout the year. Passive cooling keeps heat from building up in the first place and they also circulates air to generate a feeling of coolness in the home.
Top ways to prevent your home from getting hot
Many passive cooling techniques to prevent heat buildup in the home rely on proper planning of the entire home. If you’re building a new home, you can take full advantage of pretty much all passive cooling techniques available to you. But even if you already own your home, you can retrofit it with many of these options for preventing heat buildup.
- Light colored siding: The color of your home really does matter when it comes to heat build up. If you live in a hot climate, a light-colored home is the best option because it will reflect sunlight away from the home, rather than absorbing its energy. The DOE report notes that dull and dark-colored home exteriors absorb between 70% and 90% of the sunlight’s energy, some of which is transferred inside the home in the form of heat.
- Roofing options: Traditional roofs attract energy and heat, but you can add a reflective coating to your home’s roof to reflect back some of the sun’s rays so that your roof doesn’t retain as much heat. Better yet, a green roof uses plants to reduce both temperature and storm water runoff.
- Windows: Much of the heat that builds up in your home comes through windows. Adding reflective coatings to your windows to bounce the sun’s rays back instead of allowing all that energy inside the home can help, but you can also solve part of this problem by simply drawing the blinds or shades to block the sun’s rays during the hottest part of the day.
- Insulation: Obviously, having good insulation is important to your home any time you want to keep the indoor temperature at a steady level. Caulking, sealing, weather stripping, and installing new, more efficient insulation in the attic and walls can all help keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
- Shading: Planting trees on the outside of your home that will eventually offer shade in the summer is one of the most overlooked ways of reducing cooling needs and costs in the summer. Planting trees where they won’t block the best breezes and where they will shade your home during the hottest part of the day can make a significant impact on your home’s cooling costs.
- Appliances: Energy-efficient appliances lose less energy to heat than other appliances, so you should always check for Energy Star ratings when buying new appliances. You can prevent some heat buildup in your home by turning off the stove and oven during the summertime (consider grilling outdoors or using a slow cooker instead) and by running heat-producing appliances during the cooler parts of the day.
As you can see, many of these passive cooling options can be retrofitted to a home’s interior and exterior even after it’s built. You don’t even have to take all these steps at once—taking even one or two at a time can make a difference in how much energy you use to cool your home.
Top ways to promote air circulation in your home
Unless you live in a cave, you’re likely to get at least a little heat built up in your home, even if you take the above steps. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to remove heat buildup without using air conditioning. Here are the best options:
- Ventilate during the cool parts of the day: The easiest option for ventilating your home is to simply open the windows and doors. Only do this during the coolest parts of the day, though. This will allow cooler air in and will release built up heat. During the hotter parts of the day, seal up the home to prevent heat from getting in.
- Venting in the attic: Because heat rises, the attic of your home will nearly always be hotter than the rest of the home. You can allow much of the hot air in your home to escape by opening the soffit vents in the roof and roof vents from the attic to get rid of heat.
- Get the air to flow: When you open windows and vents in the home, be sure that you open them on both sides and all levels of your home. Opening vents on the lowest and highest levels and on both sides of the home allows air to flow through, creating a ventilating breeze that is perfect for making your home feel cooler.
- Use fans: Ceiling and box fans are significantly cheaper to run than central air conditioning, and you can use them to speed up the ventilation of your home. A ceiling fan can make you feel about four degrees cooler, and a box fan can be directed with the air flow through the home to help the air circulate more efficiently.
If you’re building a home, window and vent placement as well as the direction you place your home on its lot will make a big difference in how efficient natural circulation methods are for your home. But these smart ventilating techniques will work in any home.
Use more efficient air conditioning when you must
If you must use air conditioning to get through the hottest parts of the day, make sure you’re using the most efficient A/C unit available to you, and only turn it on when you must. If you live in a humid climate, you may need to use more air conditioning than you would otherwise simply because allowing too much humidity to build up in your home can lead to mold and mildew.
Saving money and saving the environment often go hand and hand, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to home cooling. When you take steps to reduce your air conditioning use, you’ll make a huge impact for the environment, as well as saving tons of money in the process.
Daniela Baker is a blogger at http://www.creditdonkey.com/