Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Chill Out: Five Ways to Beat the Summer Heat while Staying Eco Conscious

Hello from sunny, and scorching, Phoenix, Arizona! It is mid-May and our temperatures have already started hitting the low 100 range on a somewhat regular basis. I can’t say for sure if this is early since it’s only my third summer here but it sure feels early. I started looking for alternatives to beat the summer heat while staying as eco conscious as possible.

Here are five simple things anyone can do to stay cool and comfortable even on the hottest summer days.

Adjust the thermostat by two degrees

This sounds like a small thing but by setting our air conditioner to kick on at eighty degrees instead of seventy-eight we can save approximately 2% in energy costs. The reverse can also be beneficial to cost and energy saving – turn the thermostat down in the winter. The two degrees on either end will barely be noticeable to the body but it will sure be noticed by the wallet when the savings roll in over the course of the year.

Block passive solar from entering the house

I use heavy weight velvet drapes in the living room and dining room, darker lined curtains in the bedroom, and wooden blinds in the kitchen. What do all these rooms have in common? They’re on the south face of our home where the sun pours in during the entire day. The curtains on the front of the house (north face) are lighter weight and lighter colored. Sunlight can still brighten up the house from these windows but the warming that comes with the sun doesn’t have to bake our rooms in the process. Once the sun passes by each of the windows I can pull back the curtains to let late afternoon light into the home. Bright and sunny doesn’t have to mean hot and wasteful!

Cover the pool

We opted to purchase a home with a pool, something we use just about every day from May through October. Not only does jumping into the pool help to cool us off (another way to eliminate air conditioning!) but it’s a soothing water feature in our yard. However, a pool uses a lot of water which is not only a hit to the wallet but is also a tough thing to justify wasting even a drop of here in the desert. When we first bought this place there were weeks we lost a full inch (or more) from our pool. By installing a simple solar cover (trimmed to fit our uniquely shaped pool) we are able to save from massive evaporation in our dry climate and not only cut back on the water bill but also extend our swimming season on either end of the summer.

Run the ceiling fans, not the AC

Installing ceiling fans is another great way to keep cooling (and heating) costs down. We leave our fans circulating all the time as it keeps continuous airflow through the house even when the air conditioner is off.

Invest in natural fiber clothing

I’ve seen a whole bunch of adorable sun dresses and other summer clothing on display recently but I’ve walked away from purchasing because of one reason – man-made fibers. Polyester and nylon may feel like they’re lighter weight because they’re so light to the touch but it’s an illusion. Synthetic threads such as those don’t breathe the same way a natural fiber like cotton, bamboo, hemp, etc. breathe because they are tighter woven in order to maintain a specific shape. Wearing them close to your skin will actually keep you warmer because the body’s internal cooling system (sweat) gets trapped under their surface with no way to escape. A natural fiber will help to wick away perspiration from the body but also release it into the air more quickly meaning the sweat can help keep the body cool. Cotton, bamboo, hemp, linen, etc. are wonderful alternatives to synthetic fibers and your cool bod will thank you for making the investment!

With just a few simple steps those of us in warmer climates will enjoy their hot and steamy summer by staying cool as a cucumber in the crisper drawer!

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