Passive Cooling For an Energy-Efficient House

The need for cooling is rising more than ever, with speculations of global warming becoming true as summers are becoming hotter and winters are turning milder than before. In the United States, cooling systems are almost synonymous to central air-conditioning systems and room air-conditioners, two systems that consume at least 15 percent of the entire energy production in the country. In fact, air conditioning can take up as much as half the electricity consumption during the hot summer months.

That sounds comfortable for those of us inside our homes, but air-conditioning places huge pressure on Mother Nature, which receives the consequences in the form of about half a billion tons of carbon emissions produced from the generation of electricity to run our air-conditioners. An earth-friendly house, which is an energy-saving house, makes use of alternative and passive cooling methods that do not consume as much electricity as conventional cooling systems. These are easy to install, much less costly, and demand much less from the environment.

Method No. 1: Remove the heat.

Have you ever heard of what many environmentalists call a thermal chimney? It’s one of the cheapest (in fact, it’s free) and easiest ways to remove the heat from your house and expel it outside. A thermal chimney is most effective in houses with multiple floors. To make a thermal chimney, you only have to open the lowest windows on the side of the house where the breeze is blowing in and open the uppermost windows on the opposite side of the house. You should leave all the doors inside the house open to allow the heated air room to travel upwards and get out through the other open windows. It is also recommended that roof ventilation is installed to reduce the amount of heat absorbed through the roof and accumulated in the attic. This minimizes your home’s cooling load and greatly helps save home energy. Roof vents are not uncommon in very hot areas, where they can be installed for $10 apiece.

Method No. 2: Reduce the sources of heat.

The biggest producers of home interior heat are the handfuls of inefficient incandescent light bulbs you have chosen over more energy-efficient fluorescents. An energy-saving house starts with its light lamps, and incandescent lights not only consume more electricity than the fluorescents, they also use majority of this electricity not to produce natural-looking light but to give off heat and increase the load on your air-conditioner. By switching to fluorescent bulbs, you save home energy both on the lights and the cooling system. Other methods to lessen the sources of heat in an energy-saving house are simple enough. Things like placing lamps and appliances away from the air-conditioner, using the dishwasher only with a full load, and air-drying laundry and dishes are cheap, easy, but effective extra efforts you can take to cool your house without using added electricity.

Method No. 3: Block the heat.

You can prevent unwanted outside heat from coming into your house by installing insulation materials such as fiberglass, spray-on foam, and cellulose on your home’s walls, ceilings, attics, and floors and radiant barriers on your roof. Insulation are effective in absorbing the heat that enters through your exteriors, while radiant barriers will reflect of the radiant heat that comes from above the house. It is also important that you seal the doors and windows of your home through weatherstripping and caulking to cover air leaks and keep your home completely airtight. There is, however, a more natural means of keeping the heat out of an energy-saving house, and it involves only the trees, vines, and shrubs. It is estimated that a home properly shaded by surrounding plants can save home energy of up to 40 percent the original consumption. Maximize these natural shades by placing trees and vine-covered trellises on the south and west sides of the house and shrubs on the lower walls to prevent heat gain and generate up to $200 in electricity savings.