7 Simple and Green Ways To Reduce Air Conditioning Use
As we become more aware of the precarious and fragile state of our planet, more and more of us are looking at ways to lead a greener and more sustainable lifestyle.
This can at times be difficult if you live in an especially hot climate, where reliance on artificial air conditioning has become the norm.
Nevertheless, there are some small steps you can take towards reducing your dependency on air conditioning, bringing with them benefits to the environment as well as your health, and even your bank balance.
What Types of Benefits?
Firstly, from an environmental perspective, standard air conditioning units are responsible for carbon dioxide emissions due to their fossil fuel consumption. Help to reduce your carbon footprint and minimise greenhouse gasses by opting for a greener solution to your cooling needs.
Secondly, you can also help to lower your energy bills when you make the switch to a greener method of cooling down.
It’s been estimated by the U.S. Department of Energy that heating and cooling accounts for some 56% of a home’s energy usage.
Although some of the options we’ll consider below shortly will require some initial capital outlay, longer term you should see a good return on investment and lower monthly utility bills.
There may even be some grants or financial incentives available in respect of certain green home improvements that you can take advantage of to help offset some of the costs.
Lastly, there’s also growing evidence that over-reliance on artificial air conditioning may have a negative impact on our health.
We become so accustomed to and dependent on it that our bodies gradually lose the ability to cool themselves down naturally.
In addition, it’s also been suggested that air conditioning can aggravate certain medical conditions such as sinusitis and upper respiratory problems, as well as helping to circulate airborne viruses.
Understanding Different Types of Heat Transfer
Before we look at some green alternatives to air conditioning, it might be useful firstly to look at the various different ways in which heat is transferred, in order to better understand exactly how the solutions below may help.
Essentially, heat is transferred in 3 different ways:
- Radiation – this is where heat travels in the form of light, and can be both visible (high spectrum sunlight) or invisible (low-level infrared)
- Conduction – this is where heat passes through a sold mass, such as the roof, walls and windows of your home
- Convection – this is where heat is carried in the air as it naturally circulates and rises
The following solutions discussed below help to combat these types of heat transfer, without the need for a traditional air conditioning unit.
When we think of insulating our homes you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is something we only do to help keep out the cold.
But in actual fact, good insulation is equally important in helping to keep out the heat.
Insulate not only the walls of your home but also your roof, attic space and garage for best results and to help minimise against conducted heat.
2. Light Coloured Roof
If possible opt for a light coloured roof.
Dark colours absorb sunlight, whereas lighter colours will reflect it and help to lower the temperature inside your home.
You could perhaps even consider installing a ‘green roof’ with a selection of plants which will not only help to insulate, but which can also help to cool things further when these plants give off water – a process known as evaporative cooling.
3. Vents and Fans
Another way to tackle stifling heat and improve ventilation in your home is by installing vents and fans in your attic.
We all know that hot air rises. Installing vents at the top of your house gives this hot air a means of escape and helps to control convected heat.
This type of set-up is also known as a solar chimney and is a great way to naturally create a breeze throughout your home. Adding a few standing fans at the bottom of a set of stairs or by a window can help add a boost to this airflow through your home.
4. Radiant Heat Barriers
These are thin layers of metal insulation (usually metalized Mylar sheeting or paper-backed tinfoil) which can be installed in your attic to help to reduce radiant heat.
5. Window Treatments
Not only a stylish addition to your home, carefully chosen window treatments can also help to keep inside temperatures at a comfortable level.
There are lots of different options on the market to choose from nowadays, from window films, blinds and shutters.
Also, the simple act of keeping your curtains closed during the hottest part of the day can also help prevent excess heat seeping in.
In addition to the above 5 solutions which involve adjustments to the inside of your home, there are also improvements you can make outside as well.
One such example is to install awnings on the side of your home or workplace to stop direct sunlight getting in.
7. Plant Trees and Shrubs
A natural green alternative to air conditioning, planting trees and shrubs around your home can provide much-needed shade and guard against radiated heat.
Consider deciduous varieties which are in full bloom in summer but which lose their leaves in the winter, thereby allowing sunlight in when the temperatures have dropped.
Overhead trellises are also an attractive option, and have the added bonus that you can grow delicious produce such as grapes on them.
If the prospect of living completely without air conditioning seems overwhelming, remember that every little change all helps. And doing something, no matter how small, is better than doing nothing at all!
Here’s to a healthier, greener future for us all.