Natural Cooling Strategies

Most people have limited tolerance for hot weather. As the thermostat rises, we quickly become uncomfortable, and if it becomes too hot inside our homes, it’s even dangerous. Our modern response to this problem is simple: “Turn up the air!” However, air conditioning consumes a lot of electricity, and most of it comes from polluting fossil fuels. Electricity is also a limited resource: On the hottest days of the year, some cities don’t have enough electricity to meet demand, leading to brownouts or rolling blackouts.

Fortunately, many old-fashioned design strategies can keep a house cool naturally, which conserves energy and saves money. Although home builders largely have stopped using these techniques over the past 100 years, there’s no reason we can’t rediscover them and use them in our homes. This article explains how to use a few basic natural cooling strategies, whether you’re building a new house or making improvements to an existing home.

Natural Ventilation

Before society embraced air conditioning, we all found simple ways to beat the heat. One was to sit on a shaded porch, sipping a cold drink. If the porch was positioned correctly, gentle breezes would blow past. Breezes help moisture evaporate from your skin — one of the body’s main methods for cooling off. In fact, many natural cooling techniques boil down to one basic principle: Keep the air moving. So how do you improve airflow within your home?

Ideally, when you’re building, you choose the site and orient your house to take advantage of naturally occurring wind patterns. You can also direct summer breezes into and through the house by carefully choosing the types and locations of windows and doors to funnel air through a building.

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If you need something now or need something temporary what can you do?

Problem: One of our clients has a house that faces west. In the morning the sun hits the patio and “cooks” the back of the house. Our client also did not want anything permanent because they liked the heat and light in the winter.

Our first recommendation was to have the attic insulation inspected to make sure they had the adequate insulation and no bare spots. If you live in San Diego check out the CSE website they have classes and a tool “library” where you can “borrow” a thermal camera. Call first because due to Covid they may have had to make changes to their programs.

This is what we came up with. The patio is attached to the back of the house. That is like having a pizza stone next to your home. The rear wall would also heat up as well as the windows. The client did not want heavy, thermal drapes on all the windows because they wanted the light. They also did not want to spend a lot of money on a retractable awning. We suggested pop-up canopies or sunshades.

We found this one Coleman Instant Canopy with Swing Wall. It like to canopies for the price of 1.

It covered most of the Patio and was easy to assemble.

The second thing we did was get a sun sail.

They had trees at their fence line so we did not have to sink posts We tied the sun sail to the eves of the house and ran rope to the trees. When winter comes they can remove and store.

The front of the house had trees that provided shade so nothing was done.

They were happy to report they have only used their AC in the evening for the humidly. They do not close the house up tight because they get a nice breeze most of the day. If you live in an area that doesn’t get a breeze you may also want to keep all your doors and windows closed and draw the drapes.

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