People who don’t live in San Luis Obispo think that our Summers are always 75 degrees and sunny. While this is mostly true (muahaha), there are occasional days where temperatures soar past 90 degrees and sometimes 100 degrees. If you are a SLO resident you know exactly what I mean, because last week was treacherous, with highs peaking near 104 degrees. For most people this isn’t a problem if you’re at work or school. Most commercial buildings use large air conditioning systems to keep us fresh and cool. The challenge is always staying cool when we are at home without someone cooling our spaces for us. Some of the smallest mistakes can cause you to overheat your home to an undesirable temperature, resulting you to run to the nearest Fro-Yo and indulge on their newest tart (not a bad way to go). In this article I will teach you some basics to passively maximize the coolth in your home without using any mechanical systems. Think of all the Fro-Yo you can buy with all the money you will save!
1. Prep Work: Reduce Your Loads
Reducing your loads is the first and most important step before adjusting other factors. Surprisingly, all your small gadgets and doo-dads are always using electricity and generating heat whether you are using them or not. These are your phantom-loads. Secondly, try and reduce the amount of electric lighting you use in the daytime since they are another source of heat. Incandescent light bulbs emit 90% heat and only 10% light. Your eyes will automatically adjust to a lower light level and this way you are cutting another source of heat. Lastly, tasks like ironing, cooking, and laundry should be done during cooler parts of the day to reduce the amount of heat generated when the temperature is at its peak.
2. Maximizing The Efficiency Of Your Home
Now that you have reduced as many loads in your home as possible, we can begin work on your home itself. The general idea is to reflect the heat during the hot afternoons, and cool your home in the evenings. When you wake up in the morning shut all your blinds, close your windows and cover up any other areas that receive direct solar gain. By closing up your openings you will kick out the hot sunlight and maintain cooler temperatures inside. In contrast, having your windows wide open will soak up tons of heat and capture it inside making your home feel hotter than it is outside.
Once the sun starts to set and the temperature get cooler it is safe to open up your home again. In the evening your goal should be to flush out all the heat from your home and cool the inside. Opening multiple windows on different sides of your house will create cross ventilation, and opening high and low windows will create stack ventilation; both methods are acceptable to flush heat from your home.
By following these methods you are using your home’s thermal mass to it’s advantage. This is the most environmental and economic way to cool your home in the summer. To go even further with passive strategies consider upgrading some essential parts of your home as a long term investment. Some general tips are to re-insulate the walls and roof of your home, upgrade to energy efficient appliances, sealing all your leaky window and door joints, and replacing your old windows with energy efficient double or triple pane glazing with low-e coatings.
Thanks for reading and stay cool!
+ M. Farid Shahid
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