Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Keeping Cool with the Planet

What a weekend, eh? Here in Toronto we’re recovering from a mind melting heat wave. While 2008 is an El Nina year, with promises of a cooler than normal summer, it’s still predicted to be one of the hottest due to the current trend. The last ten years have been the warmest on record. The challenge then is how to stay cool without heating things up.

Staying Cool while Staying Green
The air conditioner beacons. Believe me I know. Air conditioners not only demand a lot of energy from non renewable sources, they heat the air to boot. Here are alternatives:

  • Shut all blinds of south facing windows during the day. Remember, light colours reflect light while dark colours absorb it.
  • Open all window for a cross draft.
  • Fans demand electricity but are not energy hogs like air conditioners, which use up to 1/6th of electricity in the United States and can consume up to 43% of US peak power. Ceiling fans are a big help. Just make sure blades are spinning in the right direction so you feel air blowing downward. Run a large fan in the basement to draw up the cool air to the rest of the house.
  • Install compact florescent lights. The energy produced by incandescent bulbs is 95% heat.
  • Prepare lunches and dinners that require no cooking.
  • Spend quality time in the basement – if it’s finished. If unfinished, spend non quality time in the basement.
  • Bring a picnic and good book to a heavily wooded park. Trees cool things down by 5°C.
  • Reconnecting with nature is always a swell idea anyway.
  • If you must turn on the air conditioner, avoid turning your home into a refrigerator. Keep it up to about 25°C.
  • Popsicles!!

Some Planning

  • Invest in ceiling fans if you don’t have any.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.
  • Have a home energy audit. Caulk air leaks and install insulation if recommended for your home.
  • Get a solar oven and barbecue.
  • For south facing homes, plant a deciduous tree in the front lawn. The leafy tree will shield your home from the sun and naturally cool things down. In the winter with the branches bare, the sun will hit the home when it needs it the most. Also consider planting vines along the side of the house that gets the most sun. According to the EPA, “shaded walls may be 9 to 36°F (5° to 20°C) cooler than the peak surface temperatures of unshaded surfaces.” Please check with your utility before digging a hole to plant a tree. You don’t want to be hitting any gas or sewage pipes.
  • Refinish the basement with a place for sleeping during the hottest days of the year.
  • Invest in a geothermal system which will keep things cool in the summer without the need of a traditional air conditioner.
  • If building a home, look into Passive Houses and other energy efficient options. If done properly you will drastically reduce your carbon footprint and save a bundle. Really, all houses and buildings should be legislated to be energy efficient and energy producers.

For more tips on keeping cool, visit Earth Easy

In the News

Hypermiling: Tricks squeeze every drop from the tank
Great tips to improve your fuel efficiency. Hypermiling is now getting to be all the rage. But really the best hypermiling is walking and cycling.

Another Failure on Climate Change
The US senate did not pass the climate change bill.

After cheap oil
MacLean’s Magazine takes on peak oil.

Rural U.S. Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average

No comments: