Call me an energy nerd.... I've read tons of articles on saving energy, and they involve buying various gadgets (many of which I own), but what I am going to list here is 5 things (actually 6) you can do to your own house that take only a few minutes (most of them) and that are basically free. The goal here is to keep the house cool, without unnecessary effort and for free!
1) Blinds or Drapes
Common sense tells you to keep your blinds closed on a hot sunny day. This lowers your solar gains, as well as gives better insulation, but there's more too it than just closing them.
- If you have slat blinds - adjust them so the top of each slat is pointing towards the window ( like this "/"). Otherwise, more hot air is "pushed" into your house via convection.
- Keep the blinds completely closed to avoid convection
- Some blinds have a light/dark side. Keep the light side facing outside
- If the light is needed Consider keeping your blinds open in shaded areas (ie the north side). This relates to number 4.
2) Grill out!
- This is the easiest one on our list to follow. Please don't start any wildfires, but grilling outside (in the shade) is advantageous for several reasons
- Cooking produces a lot of heat and also a lot of steam. Excess moisture in your house makes it feel warmer than it is. So, grilling outside can both eliminate the heat, and the moisture that enters your house via cooking.
- An even better solution is to simply eat cold foods (cold cuts, fresh fruits and veggies, cheese, dairy, etc)
3) Keeps unnecessary lights and pilot lights off!
- If you can light your house via diffuse light from windows (keeping blinds open in the shaded parts of your house), this will be more efficient. Most Electric Lights produce more heat per lumen than you get from exterior diffuse light. (ie, indirect light). If you have to have lights on, efficient lights save more than you think (See this blog for proof)
- Keep unnecessary electronics off. Example, you have a cable box that you don't use; turn it off or unplug it. Modern day electric appliances use energy even when they are off. This produces waste heat and burns electricity - keep them unplugged or use power a strip to turn them off completely
- Do you have a gas fireplace? If so, shut off the pilot light for the months it's not used. Not only does it waste gas, it also heats your house. Leaving your pilot light on on one fireplace can cost $20/month and it takes less than 5 minutes to turn off!
4) Garage Doors
- This one is interesting, because there isn't a consistent answer. Simply judge if your garage is warmer than the exterior air, and if it is - keep the door open (during shaded hours)
- If the air is cooler with the door closed, keep it closed.
5) Air Conditioning Unit
(this one may involve a little more work, and a little money, but it is majorly important!)
- I'm shocked at how many home designers don't seem to understand the importance of the location of your exterior air conditioning unit. The exterior a/c unit should be located in a shaded and well ventilated area
- If your exterior ac unit is on the south side of your home (in the northern hemisphere) - shame on your designer/architect (unless it is a heat pump). Consider shading it with a trellis or a bush. Keep a distance of a few feet to allow proper circulation and fan flow. Keeping the A/C unit out of the sun effectively cools it by 20 degrees or more - making it more efficient in the shade. Plus, if you plant bushes around it, you may also get trans-evaporative cooling (ie, the bush "sweats" and makes it slightly cooler). This, in turn, makes the unit more efficient. Just remember to allow for ventilation or you will do more harm than good. (example - Don't shade the darn thing with plywood sheets!)
6) Something cold to drink?
(Yup, seriously. This is number one. In fact, this is the original "air conditioning". Read "Walden" and find out that even 150 years ago, they shipped ice from the Northeast U.S. to India - just so an aristocrat could could keep cool - it obviously must work... right?)
- Of course, we're talking non-alcoholic drinks. Alcohol opens up your veins and makes you a little bit warmer. I suppose we could note that for a blog on beating the cold
- Drinking something cold puts the "cold" energy directly inside your body. This means that the only source to heat the cold water is your blood flow. The blood in your stomach is cooled and will circulate through the rest of your body. This is a 100% efficient thermal energy transfer!
- Bonus points if you swallow a few ice cubes (but please don't choke). When you swallow ice (we recommend crushed), you get twice as much cold per ounce.
- Don't forget that given the current drought, staying hydrated also keeps your skin moist (even without sweating). This pushes the temperature of your skin closer to the wet bulb temperature, which could be 20-30 degrees colder than the temperature on the thermometer.
7) Take cold showers/baths
This is number zero because it is painful for some. But, taking cooler showers does several things:
- It cools you down 50 times faster than air
- Less water evaporates, keeping the air in your home dry and thus more comfortable
- People who take cold showers, take shorter showers - thus conserving water!