Keeping Cool at Home

A few simple techniques can help keep your house cooler, whether you have AC or not.

The sunny summer days are here. Lucky for us, San Diego geography allows the ocean to act as a natural air conditioner. Be aware of when heat will strike, and use some simple strategies to minimize both your discomfort and your energy use, since the hottest days are when the electric grid is under the most strain.

Get the Most Out of a Little Air Conditioning 

Open those windows to take advantage of cool nights and mornings and cross breezes. Fans, especially ceiling fans, are efficient in making you cooler with little power. Use shades both inside and out; you can even plant trees and vines on the south side of your house to minimize heat gain. 

Try to limit your use of AC to when the sun is bright, since clean solar energy is abundant in the grid at those times. The evening hours are the peak times when the grid sees heavy demand and electricity is both most expensive and dirtiest. Of course, solar panels and battery storage on your home minimize your impact.

Air Out the Laundry

Even though new washers and dryers have become much more energy efficient, drying your clothes outside is a great way to keep your home cool. If using the dryer is a must, do so during off-peak hours, and reduce energy use by drying the right-sized loads and switching loads when the dryer is warm. And always wash your clothes in cold water; new detergents make hot water an unnecessary waste.

Keep the Kitchen Cool

To reduce the furnace-like effect of your kitchen, try using the microwave, toaster oven, or air fryer more often. Or cooking on an outdoor grill. Going meatless is another way to reduce energy use and keep your kitchen cool.

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When you do have to fire up the stove or oven, aim for efficient cooking. Plan out weekly meals: Do heat-intense cooking during cooler mornings, then reheat later. You can use the same dishes and ingredients for multiple meals; roasted vegetables work as great as a side dish for dinners as in sandwiches or wraps for lunches. By reducing the number of times you actually cook a meal compared to reheating it, you lower time spent in the hot zone, keep your home cooler, and cut your energy use.

Add Indoor Plants

When you walk into a garden center or nursery, it often feels much cooler than the ambient temperature. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, adding multiple indoor plants throughout your home can help keep things cool in a couple ways. When tall plants such as weeping fig or fern and fishtail palms are placed near windows, they can soak up the rays while casting some beneficial shade. Adding multiple plants to your indoor spaces also increases the cooling effect of transpiration, the process by which plants evaporate water through their leaves, cooling themselves and their surrounding environment. Especially in dry climates, the more plants you add to your environment the cooler it will be.The key to greener living is simply to be mindful, in this case about shade and cross breezes, efficient cooking and appliances, and greenery around your home. With a little thought, we can celebrate summer while keeping cool and energy efficient.

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Dave Houle
Dave Houle
Dave Houle has worked in Higher Ed as an Intercultural Learning & Development Specialist and Faculty for ten years. His current research and writing are centered on teaching and learning for the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion in Higher Ed. As a lifelong musician, Dave has been dedicated to a creative lifestyle through playing and teaching guitar. He lives in La Mesa with his wife and three large cats.
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