Summer: the time of long, hot, days and nights, dense green foliage and lazy barbecue-filled afternoons. But as enjoyable as the summer months can be, it’s all too easy for your home to overheat. Air conditioning is a common way to deal with this problem, but too much AC has many detriments: it can be very costly, especially during heat waves; it contributes to a lack of adaptation to the heat that can cause discomfort; and the power consumption in these days of climate change can increase your carbon footprint and contribute to global warming. If you’re concerned about reducing your AC usage, there are several options you can explore to reduce power consumption while allowing your home to remain comfortable during the sweltering summer months.
Some Cool Alternatives
Keeping your house cool in the summer is fairly straightforward if you understand a little about the thermal properties of incident heat. The first step should be reducing the amount of heat that enters the building in the first place, and the starting point for that should be your roof tiles and siding. Investing in high-albedo (i.e., highly reflective) roof tiles and siding will immediately cut down the amount of heat from sunlight that is absorbed into the materials, and thus the amount that gets conducted into the building. Fairly inexpensive reflective paint will aid you in ensuring that the first line of defence against the encroachment of summer heat is well manned.
Following on from this, insulation is usually not the first thing that people think about when it comes to cooling down your house – it’s usually associated with keeping the place warm in winter – but the principle in both cases is exactly the same. Insulation reduces the transfer of heat from a warmer area to a cooler one, so whether you want to remain toasty in the dead of winter to cool in the height of summer, insulating your roofing space or walls is a must. In a similar fashion, good ventilation in the attic will be a big help by allowing hot air to escape, rather than get trapped and conduct heat into the rest of the building.
A Blind Bit of Difference
One of the principal causes of your house overheating is of course the entry of sunlight through windows. High energy rays pass through the glass and lose energy when they reflect off surfaces in the house, rendering them unable to pass back out through the window again, instead being absorbed and warming up the room. The use of specialized window blinds and shades can be a huge help in preventing this problem, and for much less than the cost of replacing your siding or running an AC unit 24/7. There are a few types of window treatments that may be useful depending on your situation.
Cellular shades are the most energy-efficient window treatment available today. They contain honeycomb-shaped air pockets (cells), which act as great insulators, and fold up in pleats like an accordion when raised. Cellular shades come in single- or double-cell types depending on your insulation needs, and are available in various different light control factors from opaque to sheer. They are a great choice for both summer and winter because the insulation works year-round.
Solar shades are a type of roller shade that block the sun’s radiant heat from entering your home in the same way as high-albedo siding. They are made from a synthetic mesh and are a great choice when you want to preserve window views, because they are translucent. You can choose varieties that let in various amounts of light, or the ‘openness factor’ of the blinds, which range from approximately 3% to 14%. Do be aware that at dusk and dawn, when the light inside your house is greater than the light outside, people will be able to see in through the shades. Further, unlike cellular shades, they offer little insulation in cold weather, though they do help radiant heat from escaping to the outside.
Finally, outdoor shades are useful for patios and sunrooms where you want to reduce glare and heat gain. Similarly, shutters on the outsides of windows are an excellent way to control the heat in your house, but provide fewer options in terms of light control. All in all, there are a variety of options available to you to keep your house cool in the summer months without resorting to costly, carbon-hungry AC. Stay cool!