Keeping Cool In More Ways Than One
by Marjorie Dorfman

In the heart of a long and hot summer, keeping cool without benefit of an air-conditioner is no easy task, but it can be done. (Just move to someone else’s house and run their air-conditioner!) All kidding aside, here are some tips that will cost you little if anything, and will help you spend the warmer months in much less discomfort than in previous years. The goal is to minimize the sources of heat in your home and remove built-up heat from inside. Follow these simple rules and do not pass go, collect two hundred dollars or even dare to turn on your air-conditioner. (We will know. We are watching.)

Fans: Portable, Ceiling and Otherwise

Open your windows and use portable and/or ceiling fans. Make sure your ceiling fan is blowing air downward. Even the very mildest movement of air can make you feel a few degrees cooler and costs only about $10 dollars per month to maintain if kept on for 12 hours per day.

Use portable fans or ceiling fans and the "Fan Only" setting on your heating system's thermostat to keep the air circulating. If your home has a whole-house fan, turn it on to extract warm air.

Use exterior fans as much as you can. They are very effective at reducing the level of moisture in the air. Fans, generally speaking, do not use much energy as well. Visit for more information.

Always use your ventilating fans to help extract warm, moist air when washing and drying clothes, showering and cooking.

Shades, Curtains and Blinds

Close the curtains, blinds, shades and drapes on those windows in your home that face the sun (east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon). Consider installing white window shades, drapes or blinds which will reflect heat way from the house, which is the most efficient way to help fans do their job cool.

Internal Heat

Be aware that the most common sources of internal heat are appliances, lighting and electronic devices. Try to avoid those activities that you know will generate heat, such as cooking during the hottest part of the day. If you do cook, using a range fan will help to vent the hot air out of your kitchen and your house. Minimize mid-day washing and drying clothes and showering as well. This will help reduce indoor humidity and when you must do these things, turn on the ventilating fans, which will help extract the warmth and unpleasant moistness in the air.

When landscaping, avoid using large quantities of exposed rock, cement or asphalt on the southern and western sides of your home because it increases the temperature surrounding the house and radiates heat to it after the sun has set.

Roofs and Attics

Insulate your attic. This will effectively cut back the transfer of heat through the roof and walls. You can cut cooling costs by 10% by just upgrading insulation from 3 inches to 12 inches. Install a foil radiant barrier and staple it to the underside of the roof. This will allow some space for air between the foil and the roof sheathing. Place staples about three inches apart. Seams should be positioned between sheets of foil centered on the rafters and sealed with a bead of caulking compound. Do your homework though, and learn all you can about buying insulation.

You can lower the inside temperature of your attic and reduce energy use by as much as a third compared with the cost of an air-conditioner if you use a well sized and placed whole house fan in your attic. If you can install it yourself, this should run anywhere between $150-$400.

If your roof is flat, paint it either with a specially formulated reflective paint or with white, especially in the areas facing south and west. The reflective effect will help to keep the rooms in your house much cooler. Use lighter shingles as that will help to cut down on the amount of heat the house absorbs.


Consider installing inexpensive, heat-reflecting film on the windows in your home that face the sun. This will also save your floors and furniture from damage by ultraviolet rays. In hotter climates, the film types that are sun-control are by far the most effective, but they will also reduce the amount of light that filters through the windows. In colder climes, choose a film combination, but avoid applying it to the windows in your home that face south. If you don’t, these rooms will not benefit from the warmth of the winter sun.

Use shelters like overhangs, patio overheads and awnings to prevent the stream of sunlight through the windows on the sides of your home that face south and west.

Open your skylights or transom windows as they will let out heated air and create convection currents.

Trees and Shrubs

Plant deciduous trees and shrubs (those that lose their leaves seasonally) along the southern and western sides of your home. Due to the fact that periods of leaf fall usually coincide with the seasons, these trees will keep your house cool in summer and allow sunlight to warm the house in winter. For example, three trees properly placed around a house can save between $100 and $250 annually in cooling and heating costs. Daytime temperatures can be 3 to 6 degrees cooler in areas shaded by trees. Some of these tree types include: Maple, some Oak, Elm, Aspen and Birch.

Turn off all heat-generating appliances unless they are absolutely vital to your survival. Opt for the barbecue instead of the oven or stove-top when cooking time is nigh.

Even if you just adopt some of these tips, your summer will be cooler than it has ever been and maybe a bit less costly than if you just flipped the switch on that old air-conditioner.

Dare to be inventive. It will save you green and make you a bit greener as well!

Did you know . . .

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