How to Cool Your Home Naturally – Part One

(Photo credit: Memotions)

When Joshua and I moved in at The Wallow, it was going on winter. Our home has an awesome wood stove, so we were able to heat the house just with wood, even though the house also has central air and heat. Now it’s summer, and we’re also committed to cooling the house without A/C. So far, the experiment is going well. It has yet to get over 75 in the house, even as outside temperatures have approached 90. In many other houses, I’ve tried to cool naturally with much less success, as I’m sure many other have. Here’s a little primer on how to cool your house naturally in case you’d like to give it a try.

The Basics

For natural (passive) home cooling, the idea is to prevent heat from building up inside your house, and when you have a cool temperature inside, keeping it there. You can promote this using large-scale features or changes to your home or through simple things like opening/closing windows and using fans.

The Big Stuff

If you are looking for a new home, building one yourself, or have a lot of money to spend on making your home more able to stay cool naturally, there are some large scale things you can look for or implement yourself. If you’re already in a home and don’t have a lot of money to spend, you’re stuck with what you’ve got. But, just in case, here’s an overview of some of the larger things that help your home stay cool.

  • A dark colored home will absorb more heat and light colored home will reflect more heat.
  • Insulating your home helps in the summer and the winter. Good insulation, weather stripping, and caulking will make a big difference in all seasons.
  • A lot of your home’s heat comes through the roof. There are reflective applications that can be applied to your existing roof or a reflective barrier that goes on the underside of your roof.
  • Having a covered porch on the east or south side (or both!) of the house blocks the sun’s rays from those windows.
  • Landscaping options, such as well placed trees can provide beauty, outdoor shade, and help keep your home cool. Trees that lose their leaves in the fall are best, so that you have shade in the summer and get the sun in the winter.

Moderate Changes

The next category of preparation involves some amount of money, but not nearly as much as changing the color of your house or large scale insulation or landscaping projects. These changes involve shading your windows from the sun. The most important windows to consider are the ones on the east side of the house. Next in importance is the south side. If you decide to shade your windows, consider choosing removable options, so that you can benefit from the sun in the winter. I’ve listed these in order from most beneficial to least.

  • The most involved option is adding awnings. Awnings can be made of metal or fabric, and a light color will reflect as well as shade. Consider leaving a gap between the awning and the side of the house so that trapped hot air can escape.
  • Shutters are another option, either on the inside or outside of the windows, either solid or slatted.
  • Also consider curtains. The best fabric is light colored and tightly woven. The tighter and closer to the window it is, the better. Two layers will add more protection than one.
  • Finally, you can just use blinds. Some blinds are even made with a reflective coating on the outside, which increases their usefulness for this purpose.

Interior Heat Sources

Besides the sun, another thing to consider is the things in your house that make heat. There are a lot of things happening in your home that you might be overlooking as sources of heat.

  • Lightbulbs – Turn off the lights whenever you can. Consider switching to CFLs, which create about 90% less heat than incandescent bulbs.
  • Appliances – The microwave makes less heat than the stove. Consider only running your dishwasher in the evening when outside temperatures are cooler.
  • Water heater – Your water heater is a source of heat that you can’t do a lot about. If it’s in a closet in your main living space, consider insulating that room, such as through door-sized curtains that help seal in the heat.
  • Dryers – Run your dryer only in the evening. You can also consider insulating your laundry room, as well.
  • Computers – I’ve been amazed at how much heat a computer gives off. Turn these off when not in use and pay special attention to ventilating the room where you computer is.

Next Up! Window Magic!

If you’re not going to make big changes to your home in the interest of cooling it without A/C, what you really want to hear about is what to do with your windows and fans. This is what I think of as “window magic” and will be covered in part two. Stay tuned!