Air conditioners are advantageous and important for comfort in hot, humid climates; in most other cases, well designed homes do not require air conditioning.
The number of buildings using air conditioners is rapidly increasing, but it hasn't to be so. You can cut your cooling bills to a fraction by using natural cooling strategies and an energy-savings approach.
Shade your House and Your Yard
If you live in a hot climate or have high cooling bills, shade your windows, roof and walls, and the ground around your house. Use devices like awnings, shades and pergolas, but also trees and shrubs.
Do not underestimate shading. Shade and natural ventilation are key elements for home energy savings.
Learn to Use Natural Ventilation: It’s Costless and Very Effective
Consider breezes and outside fresh air to cool your house. Open your windows to breezes and use ventilation fans and whole-house fans to bring outside fresh air into your house.
Consider cross and stack (convective) ventilation. Try the best strategies to deflect breezes and to channel them into your rooms. Use windows and openings in different parts of the house, and close the house up tight during the daytime hours to keep the heat outside and the fresh air inside.
Use Air Conditioners Selectively
Central AC is expensive to install and to run. Consider using air conditioners selectively.
Consider Low-Cost Mechanical Cooling Equipment
Consider evaporative coolers (in dry-hot climates) and whole-house fans (in hot climates, with cool nighttime air). Consider also ceiling fans and small portable fans (in still-air conditions) and window-fans (to bring outside cooler air into the house)…
They cost little when compared with air conditioners. Alone or combined with other natural cooling methods, or with air conditioners, they are great for energy savings.
High-Performance Windows and Window Films Can Cut Cooling Bills in Half
Windows are often the biggest source of unwanted heat gains. To reduce them to very small values, consider high energy-efficient windows (with proper glazing and frames) or install window films. Shading is also highly effective for energy savings.
Add Trees and Shrubs to your Yard: Landscaping Can be Very Effective for Comfort and Energy Savings
Add trees and other plants to your yard. They may not not provide immediate results, but in the long run that’s highly advantageous. Vegetation provides shade and evapo-transpiration. Choose the right trees and plant them in the right locations to shade your roof, walls and windows - and the ground around your house.
Pay Attention to your Roof and Attic and to the Colors of the House; Avoid Attic Fans
In stand-alone homes the roof and the attic are major sources of unwanted heat gains during hot weather conditions.
Roof coatings, light roofing colors and high levels of attic insulation can greatly reduce your cooling bills. They are key for low-energy homes.
Attic ventilation can also help, but do not expect significant results from it or from attic fans.
Also avoid a dark-colored home, in hot or even moderate climates. Light-colored surfaces will reflect most of the heat away, while dark colors will absorb more than 70% or the radiant energy of the sun, part of which will be transferred into your living space by conduction.
Design Strategies for Cooling
If you are planning to build a new home, consider carefully its design and its exposure to the sun (or protection from it), as well as its orientation to breezes.
Incorporating cooling and heating features in the design of your house will save you many thousands of dollars in energy bills over its lifetime.
Reduce Internal Sources of Heat
Internal heat gain sources include heat gains from lights, dishwashers, dryers, ovens and others. Be aware to them...
About to build a new home?
Read our book (Print and Kindle ebook versions);
Save thousands of dollars;
Avoid costly mistakes and pitfalls.