9139228655?profile=RESIZE_710xIt’s summertime, and living is easy. Well, not so much. Due to Global Climate Change, it’s getting hotter all over and the number and intensity of forest fires is increasing, especially in Western states like California. Utilities are having a hard time meeting the cooling energy needs of homes and businesses during the hottest days, leading to rolling blackouts and the use of older, dirtier, and less efficient “peaker” power plants. And there are more direct dangers associated with high temperatures. In the summer of 2003 in Europe, temperatures reached record highs in many countries. This led to a lack of water to cool thermal power plants and limits on electricity for fans and air conditioning. The elderly living in apartment buildings in large cities were especially at risk, and thousands died.

We want to be comfortable in our homes. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends that, for thermal comfort, at Relative Humidity at 50%, we keep our thermostats at from 69oF to 75oF in the winter, and from 75oF to 81oF in the summer.

So how can we be cool, comfortable, and minimize our carbon footprint? If you have solar electricity that meets at least some of your cooling energy needs, you are already part of the solution. Cooling more efficiently or using renewable energy smooths the peak energy loads that utilities experience on hot days in the afternoons. That puts less carbon into the air.

But there are some simpler hacks that we can all do.

The Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge website gives some great tips for cooling our homes. Recommended measures include closing doors, drapes, and windows during the day to keep cool inside, and using things like awnings, overhangs, and foliage to block the heat before it enters your home. Another easy cooling hack is using ceiling fans to cool your skin through evaporation. Studies show that you can set your thermostat 40F higher and still feel as comfortable. Make sure your fan is rotating counterclockwise to get the best cooling effects and turn the fan off when you leave a room. Fans cool bodies, not empty spaces.

Energy efficiency advocates in our area, BayREN, and Energy Upgrade California, will help you find ways to make your home more energy efficient, which will allow you to cool your house more efficiently. They will also let you know what rebates and tax breaks are available through the state, federal government, and utilities in your area. You can stay cool more efficiently by adding insulation or fixing leaky air ducts, or by replacing older A/C units. Replacing your old incandescent light bulbs with LEDs is a simple and inexpensive way to stay cooler for less money and energy. Incandescent bulbs give off heat that increases your cooling load significantly. Cooler LEDs won’t. And of course, LEDs use about one-fourth the energy of incandescent bulbs. 

For generations people in our state have opened their windows at night to let the cool air inside, and then closed them during the day when the sun is out. That’s a simple and inexpensive way to cool your home. Whole house fans pull the night air into your home and exhaust it through your attic vents. The Department of Energy has a lot of information about the pluses and minuses of whole house fans. In our state there is a good reason not to use a whole house fan—when the air quality is dangerously low during fire season. The California Air Resources Board offers you some ways to stay cool when the air quality is poor. These include running your air conditioner on recirculate mode with all your windows closed and purchasing a high MERV (minimum efficiency rating value) filter. The MERV rating tells you how efficiently the filter removes particulate matter. Look for a filter with a MERV higher than 13, but you may want to contact your HVAC service pro to see if your system can handle the thicker filter.

Stay healthy, safe, cool, and green this summer.


Photo by Gus Ruballo on Unsplash (House)


You need to be a member of SCOCO Network to add comments!

Join SCOCO Network

Email me when people reply –