If you’re looking for a greener alternative to traditional air conditioning, the following common sense ideas and low-cost changes can cool your home without harming the environment or depleting your budget.
The best way to keep your home naturally cool in the summer is to prevent heat from building up indoors in the first place. The most obvious source of indoor heat gain is direct sunlight, which gets absorbed by your home’s roof, walls, and windows. Other, lesser known sources include air leakage around poorly sealed and insulated doors and windows, and heat from household appliances like dryers, dishwashers, and computers.
To keep heat from building up inside your home, use heavy curtains or blinds on windows to block direct sunlight, enhance the landscaping around your home with trees and shrubbery that help deflect or bar the sun’s rays, make sure doors and windows are properly sealed, turn off heat-generating appliances like televisions and computers when not in use, and limit the use of other appliances that use heat —- like the washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher—to early in the morning or after dark when outdoor temperatures are likely to be lower.
In hotter climates or in larger homes, simply deflecting the sun’s rays and restricting the use of heat-generating appliances are not enough to cool effectively. Fortunately, there are several environmentally responsible strategies you can employ to supplement traditional air conditioning.
Any time you can reduce the strain on your home’s air conditioning system, you’re saving money and lowering your energy usage (and impact on the environment). So things like shading windows and sealing doors are a good first step in greening up your home’s cooling. Fans and evaporative coolers go even further.
Ceiling fans won’t cool a room, but they make you feel cooler. Using a fan can make a room feel up to four degrees cooler than with air conditioning alone. Installing a fan means you can turn up your air conditioner several degrees, reducing your energy usage and helping you save money.
Evaporative coolers cool the air using water vapor and are only appropriate if you live in a dry climate. However, they consume about a fourth of the energy of conventional air conditioners, which makes them environmentally friendly and energy conscious.
There are now more rebates and financial incentives than ever for homeowners who choose energy efficient options for home cooling. Many utility companies and local governments participate in a variety of programs. If you’re thinking about greening your home’s air conditioner, contact your utility company or local environmental conservation agency for information about available programs in your area.
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