Seattleites pride ourselves on the preservation of those “quintessential” Seattle neighborhoods, peppered with charming Craftsman-style homes, small fruit tree-enhanced yards, and a general lack of parking space. But these small and sweet homes are rarely equipped with air conditioning. Despite our temperate climate, we can have our fair share of heat spells, but their infrequency means that our houses are usually ill-equipped to handle the heat. But air conditioning is not the answer. It’s not only costly to install and run, but energy inefficient and extremely detrimental to the environment. In fact, air conditioning is the most energy consuming appliance in a house, using 16% of an average home’s total electricity! Not only can this cost you an average of $280 per year, but you are releasing over two tons of CO2 into the air, making you decidedly not very Earth-friendly. Carla Emery has seven eco-friendly cooling techniques that will help both your budget and the planet.
1. If you cook, bake, and can in the house rather than in an outdoor summer kitchen or campfire, do it in the evening so the house will have all night to cool off. But minimize cooking by serving salads, raw fruit, cool herb teas, and grilled or quickly heated foods.
2. Get cool air indoors. After the sun goes down and the outside air becomes cool, open all your windows and get as much of that good cool air inside as possible. Using fans, especially an attic fan, will help accomplish that quickly. (A fan doesn’t need as much energy as does air conditioning, and it doesn’t use chemical refrigerants!) In the morning, close all your windows to keep in that wonderful cool night air you collected.
3. Ceiling fans are inexpensive to operate and can help keep rooms cooler.
4. Hang heavy insulating blankets in all south- and west- facing windows, at least while the sun is shining on them. The more you can prevent summer sun from directly shining into your house’s rooms, the cooler they will be.
5. A cool shower before the afternoon nap or bedtime helps keep both grown-ups and children cool.
6. Drink lots of pure water or water with a little fruit juice added.
7. Arrange your work schedule as they do in hot desert countries: Take a siesta or stay inside quietly in your coolest room during the hottest afternoon hours. Make up for it by working in the evening, when the temperatures are comfortable, doing what in winter you would have done in the afternoon. Plan to do hard mental jobs in the morning and expect to have brain meltdown during the hot hours, compensated for by that nap or undemanding time. It’s a simple physiological fact that we don’t think and function as well under extreme heat.