Keeping Your Home Cool Without AC

By Kris McDowell

Portland doesn’t experience the months of hot weather some parts of the country do, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get some pretty hot days each summer. When they’re sprinkled into the forecast they can be more manageable. But when hot day is stacked on top of hot day, those without air conditioning can definitely feel the toll high temperatures take.
If your home doesn’t have central AC and purchasing a window or portable AC unit isn’t feasible, there are still measures you can take to be more comfortable when the mercury climbs beyond your comfort zone. Energy Trust of Oregon, a non-profit organization that has been committed to delivering clean, affordable energy to utility customers since 2002, has some suggestions for strategies you can put in place to keep your indoor space cool.
Windows allow a considerable amount of heat indoors, especially those that receive direct sunlight, and those with south and/or west facing windows in their homes can attest to the difference late-day sun exposure makes to the temperature of their interior spaces. Covering windows is the most important step to take to keep your home cool and can be done in a variety of ways.

If you have the ability to install awnings on the exterior of your windows, the shield they provide can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 77 percent. Awnings are available in both fixed and retractable varieties, with the latter providing the benefit of closing during the winter to let the sun in when the heat is welcome.

Window film
Applying a window film, a thin layer that sticks to the glass and reduces solar heat and UV rays from entering the home, can reduce up to 78 percent of the sun’s heat coming through the windows.

Blackout curtains and window shades
Both blackout curtains, often thought of for keeping sleeping areas darker, and energy-efficient cellular window shades are a great way to manage the amount of heat that enters your home.

Fans, which cool people not rooms, draw air in from behind and circulate it around the room to create a wind chill effect. By making a few minor adjustments, you can get the most out of your fans. Placing portable fans lower toward the ground (taking advantage of the fact that cold air is denser than hot air) and in a cool corner will draw in the cool air and distribute it throughout the room. Ceiling fans should be set to turn counterclockwise to create a cooling downdraft. Just remember, when you’re not in the room to turn the fan off to reduce energy consumption.
One of the least expensive strategies that can be taken is replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient ones like LEDs or compact fluorescent lamps. LEDs use up to 90 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and can also reduce the amount of heat generated from inside your home (if you’ve ever tried to replace a traditional light bulb after it has been turned on for a while, you know just how hot they can get). Not only does replacing the bulbs cut down on the heat generated, it can also impact your energy bill.
Another inexpensive strategy is to proactively manage the air flow in your home. Once the temperature begins to drop in the evening, opening all the windows will flush out the warm air that has built up inside during the day. You can also create an air flow vacuum by opening a lower window from the cooler side of your home and an upper window from the hotter side. If your home has double-hung windows, open the top section on one side of the home and the lower section on the other side. Fans can also be used to draw in the cooler evening air.
Two other strategies involve when and how you do certain things around the house. Chores, like running the dishwasher or clothes dryer, when done at night rather than during the hottest part of the day, will keep the temperature inside more comfortable. Also consider how you’re cooking during hot weather. If you have a grill, fire it up outside to avoid using the stove or oven. If you have a toaster oven and an external power source, placing it outside during use will keep the heat it generates from heating up the kitchen.

Keeping Your Home Cool Without AC

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