When the mercury rises and the sun starts beating down, it’s easy to reach for the thermostat and turn on the air conditioning. Sure, that blast of cold air feels good on a sweltering day, but it comes at a cost. Cooling our homes gobbles up incredible amounts of energy, increasing our carbon footprint. There are countless ways to increase the efficiency of your air conditioning – from simple things like sealing your windows to more complex things like installing a whole house fan. But, there are ways to stay cool without even turning on the AC. A few simple changes will keep you comfortable in warmer temps, without resorting to the constant hum of the air conditioner.
Staying hydrated helps your body deal with soaring temperatures. Keep a pretty pitcher of water or your favorite summery drink in the refrigerator at all times so it’s easy to reach for something cool and refreshing. Take it that extra step by freezing seasonal berries in ice cube trays for a light, delicious addition to your glass of water.
When the weather gets hot, reach for clothing made from natural fibers that breathe easily. Think cotton, hemp and linen – they’ll allow moisture to evaporate away from your body so you’ll feel cooler. That breathing works two ways as well, a gentle breeze will feel cooler to you when you’re in natural fibers.
Make some shade
Natural light is beautiful, but it’s also a natural heat maker so try to block out unnecessary light. Close your blinds and drapes early in the morning before the sun gets too hot, you can open them up again once the heat of the day has passed. Use heat reflectors in your car windows (you can even get drapes with a heat-reflective lining for your home). Outside, consider growing vines over a trellis, or putting up a large umbrella to create some shade on your patio. Take your shade with you wherever you go by wearing loose-fitting, lightweight, long sleeved tops and a wide brimmed hat. It sounds a bit odd, but anyone who has lived in a brutally hot environment will tell you, keeping the sun off your skin is not only good for preventing skin cancer, it keeps you feeling cooler as well.
Get green and get wet
Indoors and out, plants create their own micro-climates, making the air around them measurably cooler than ambient temperatures. Plus, they’re pretty! While you’re at it, a water feature like a garden pond, or even an indoor fountain, creates a moist pocket of air that will make your space feel cooler. Added bonus? An outdoor pond will attract local birds and other wildlife and give you something fun and beautiful to watch on those balmy summer afternoons.
Build a breeze
Sure, turning on a fan to create air movement is great, but even better is creating a “through draft” by opening two or more windows and situating fans to bring air in from one and blow it through your home and out the other. Make sure to keep doors between the windows stopped open. The key is to pull air in from the cooler, shadier side of your home; you can add a fan on the opposite side that is blowing out to help the breeze along. It may take some experimenting to perfect which windows to open and where to place the fans, but the results are worth it. You’ll know you’ve got it right when you can feel a gentle breeze moving between the open windows.