Naturally keeping your home cool this summer is not only good for the environment, but your wallet too. In fact, switching to lower carbon emission options to cool your home can vastly reduce your carbon footprint and can save you up to 60% on your next utility bill. Energy conservation specialists say that air conditioners result in up to 80% percent of co2 emissions released by power plants – another 20% is released from the refrigerants used to cool and dehumidify the air. For over the past fifty years people have been cooling their homes without regard or even knowledge of global warming, but now the risk is more evident than ever. Here are 5 green ways of keeping your home cool in the summer.
- One of the easiest ways to cool your home is to keep your windows open at night and closed during the day. This will effectively trap cool air inside so that you don’t have to rely so heavily on your air conditioning unit. It is important, however, to be diligent about closing your windows before it gets too hot outside. Moreover, you might want to keep your cabinet doors open on especially hot days, because they can turn into heat traps that can significantly warm your home.
- Use oscillating fans throughout the home to move and cool the air. Indoor temperatures can raise considerably if the air is too stagnate. Oscillating fans can also be used in the basement to move cool air into the rest of the home. If you use stationary fans, you could place jugs of ice water in from of them to create a totally natural air conditioning system. If you place one makeshift unit into each room of your home, why would you need an air conditioner in the first place?
- It might also be wise to replace your dark window coverings with white blinds, curtains or shades, which can effectively deflect direct sunlight and heat. On particularly hot days it is recommended to keep your blinds closed so that sunlight can’t get in. Dark window coverings can absorb sunlight and create a greenhouse gas effect inside the home, which could end up making the temperature inside the home even hotter than it is outside. This could potentially increase the risk of mold and other indoor air pollutants.
- Next, switch your air conditioning unit to a system that doesn’t have environmentally unfriendly refrigerants. Switching from an R-22 to a R410A air conditioning unit can not only save you money on your energy bills, but can also reduce emissions that can deplete the ozone layer. Most R-22 units are being phased out because the hydrochlorofluorocarbons that are released into the atmosphere can have devastating effects on the atmosphere.
- Lastly, one of the best ways to naturally cool your home this summer is to plant deciduous trees that can provide organic shade. Planting the right shade providing trees, bushes or hedges along the sunniest side of your home can have the power of multiple air conditioning units. In addition, it will be great for the environment and can save you money.
Summer heat can be a wonderful thing, especially following the cold, dreary winter months that have kept you cooped up in the house. And yet, it can seem like you’ve barely gotten to soak up the vitamin D before the soaring temperatures hit triple digits and drive you back indoors. After all, you’re probably not keen on the idea of scorching your skin or flirting with a heat stroke. On the other hand, you don’t necessarily want to jack up the AC all summer long, either, significantly increasing your energy bill, not to mention your environmental impact. So if you’re looking for a few ways to have some summer fun without the aid of air conditioning, here are some options you’ll definitely want to add to your summer to-do list.
- Water sports. Depending on how adventurous you are, there are tons of water sports that could give you the opportunity to cool off during the summer months. Swimming is the obvious answer and you can do it anywhere, from public pools to local lakes and rivers to the ocean, depending on where you live. And of course, you can take family or friends with you for a fun and relaxing day of dips to beat the summer heat. You can also float the river in an inner tube, go rafting or kayaking, or even get crazy with a day of cliff jumping if you happen to be an adrenaline junkie. Want to stay home instead? Fill your tub with cool water and take the plunge or join your tots in the kiddie pool in your backyard.
- Add some foliage. Planting flora and fauna around your home can offer several benefits, not the least of which include a beautiful landscape to look at, screening from neighbors (and noise), and extra oxygen. However, abundant plant life can also help to keep down the temperature in and around your home. Tall trees, for example, can shade your home and your yard, allowing for cooler temperatures throughout the summer. This means you can leave the AC off and enjoy summer cookouts without roasting yourself. And if you go with native and drought-resistant plants you can conserve both energy and water.
- Hit local attractions. Did you know that many public buildings are not only air conditioned, but they also offer free or discount attractions? While you might normally pay a pretty penny to visit nearby museums, you should know that most offer regular family days when patrons can come for free, giving you a chance to beat the heat and enjoy a fun, free activity, to boot. You can also hit up the local library for a cool, quiet place to have a virtual summer adventure. In the meantime you can leave your own AC off.
- Picnic at the park. You don’t have to go far to get away from your stifling house or the glare in your treeless backyard. Simply head to a nearby park for the chance to lay out a blanket under a shady tree, have a little picnic, and perhaps play frisbee with your dog. Better yet, find a park that has water spouts going for the kids so you and Fido can take a refreshing run through the sprinklers, so to speak.
- Build a basement retreat. The best way to get out of the summer heat, day or night, is to create a comfortable and inviting basement that requires no AC to keep it cool. While you can certainly try switching from r22 to r410a in a bid to reduce your refrigerant use, the environment is better off if you don’t crank your AC at all. So take the time to create a basement retreat that provides you with respite from the outdoor temps and you can stay cool without the aid of air conditioning all summer long.
Virtually everyone would like to be able to afford to have a spa day on a regular basis. However, for most of us living in the real world, there’s not nearly enough time or money to be able to pull that off. That doesn’t mean that we have to forgo experiencing a few spa treatments from the comforts of our own homes, though.
If you’re looking for a few tips on how to treat yourself to an at-home spa day and you’d like to do it in a way that is as eco-friendly as possible, we have a few ideas that require basically no use of electricity yet will leave you feeling cool, calm and refreshed.
Give yourself a homemade facial. One of the most important things about being eco-friendly is that you purpose to use products that have as few chemicals in them as possible. So, that’s why we recommend that you make your own spa formulas for your skin, starting with a facial. By cooking 1/3 cup of oatmeal and ½ cup of water and then adding ¼ cup of honey, letting it cool and then applying it to your face for 15-20 minutes, you will have pores that are cleared from sebum and skin that is silky smooth.
Give yourself a homemade foot scrub. Pedicures can be extremely relaxing because in the process of making your toes pretty, you are also providing them with a much-needed massage. One homemade recipe that will leave your feet looking and feeling luxurious is a mixture of ½ cup of sugar, three tablespoons of olive oil, three tablespoons of water and a couple of drops of essential oil (such as sandalwood or jasmine). Mix everything together, rub the mixture onto your feet in a circular motion for 5-7 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. (By the way, if you’d like to “polish it off” with some eco-friendly nail polish brands, Butter London, Julep and RGB Cosmetics are some really popular ones.)
Remove hair the “green” way. Some of the best spas in Boston, New York and Los Angeles feature a variety of ways to remove hair from your body. Well, one way that you can wax your legs at home the “green” way is to do what is known as body sugaring. It’s a process that involves boiling two cups of sugar, ¼ cup of lemon juice and ¼ cup of water until it turns into a wax-like substance that can be applied while it’s warm (not hot) and removed once it’s cooled off. Something that you might really like about it is that many people who have tried this waxing method before claim that it’s a less painful process than conventional waxing. For more details, go to Care2.com and put “Ancient Egyptian Body Sugaring” in the search field.
Try a bit of aqua therapy. A particular kind of treatment that spas provide in order to improve circulation and thoroughly hydrate the skin is aqua therapy. You can basically do this at home by running a tub of warm (not hot because that requires more energy to heat) water to get into. Crunch Betty is a website that has a feature on natural body bath recipes (just go to the site and put “alternatives to bubbles” in the search field). Then all you’ll need is to light a few scented soy candles to create the perfect kind of spa atmosphere.
Have a great meal. Most high-end spas will not give you a day of treatment without also offering up a meal. That said, one way to preserve the collagen in your skin is to eat foods that are high in Vitamin C, Omega 3 Fatty Acids and dark leafy greens. So, by having a light lunch that consists of some salmon, spinach and mandarin oranges, that will help to keep your skin looking younger for longer. Plus, it requires very little “oven time” which means you also helped the environment by using very little energy to make the salad too. Fabulous!
Energy costs are sky high all over the country, and keeping your home comfortable without breaking the bank may seem like an impossibility. The sun breaks into your home every day to heat up your rooms, and your air conditioning system has to work in overdrive to keep each room at a comfortable temperature. Landscaping is a great way to increase your home’s energy efficiency and reduce your summer air conditioning costs. Following a few simple steps will help you use the power of nature to keep your home cool in the summer.
Start by taking a look at your local climate and landscape. You could be living in a temperate zone, a cold area, or a generally warm and dry region. It’s important to remember that the same landscaping techniques will not work in all of these different regions. Every geographical area has its own particular climate concerns that will influence the way you landscape to reduce your air conditioning costs.
In a warm and dry climate, your main concern is the sun. Shade is scarce in these arid climate zones, and the bright sunshine breaks into home with an intensity that causes temperatures to rise quickly. In a climate like this, such as the hot American Southwest, trees that block out the sun and provide shade are extremely beneficial for keeping homes cool and reducing air conditioning costs. Evergreens and tall shrubs are especially well-suited to this task, as they keep their leaves and needles all year round. Look for native plants that will be able to thrive in your dry climate without too much extra care.
Other geographical areas are hot as well, but their heat manifests itself with more humidity. A hot and humid climate requires a different approach to cooling, as a humid home will still be uncomfortably mucky in the stagnant air. The trick to keeping a humid home comfortable is air circulation. Home owners in humid climates should shade the walls of their homes that get the most sun exposure, but avoid planting too close to the home. Landscape in such a way that cool breezes will be directed toward your home to keep the air moving.
In a temperate climate, your concerns are not relegated to a single season. While summers in temperate zones can become uncomfortably hot, winters are equally brutal. In this setting, your goal should be to landscape for a cool summer without exposing your home to the harsh elements of winter. Deciduous trees are perfect for reducing your home air conditioning costs, and they are conveniently native to temperate areas. Deciduous trees will grow lush with thick foliage to shade your home in the summer, while shedding their leaves in the winter to let the sunshine warm up your walls.
Keeping your home energy efficient through landscaping is largely a matter of geography, so think about what techniques will be best in your climate. You may want to upgrade to a more efficient ductless home cooling system as well; ask your local what is ductless air conditioning and what are its benefits compared to other systems. An efficient air conditioner coupled with smart landscaping will keep your home comfortable throughout the whole year.
If you’ve recently looked out on your back deck and you can’t remember the last time that you purchased a new piece of patio furniture, guess what? That’s a pretty clear indication that the time is probably now. Although we may tend to spend more time indoors than outside, the reality is that it’s better for our overall health and well-being if we spent more time in the fresh air. And, the better that our outdoor space looks, the more likely we’ll want to do just that.
So, if your patio has honestly seen better days, we wanted to provide you with a few tips on how you can do a bit of eco-friendly patio remodeling below:
Take care of your deck, first. If you were going to remodel your living room, it wouldn’t make much sense to do that without cleaning your carpet first, right? It’s important to think along these same lines when it comes to your deck. If it also looks like it needs a bit of work, there is some non-toxic deck stain that you can buy. One company that sells it that comes highly reviewed is TimberSoy Natural Wood Stain.
Purchase some “green” furniture. As it relates to the kind of furniture that you should buy, there are a few ways to go about this. You can repaint or reupholster the pieces that you already have, you can go to a local thrift store or garage sale and buy some used items, or you can go with a “green dealer”. They are ones who put forth a concerted effort to sell furniture that is made from sustainable materials and uses low VOC paint. (Gaiam is one store that has a wide variety of “green” furniture.)
Get a solar water feature. Nothing says peace and serenity quite like a water feature does and the good news is that there are all kinds of ones that are solar-operated. You can find a wide selection of them by going to Serenity Health, Simply Fountains, Garden or even Wal-Mart or eBay.
Add some plants. It’s pretty natural to think that since you’re already outdoors, you don’t need more plants. However, not only do plants add to the ambiance of any space, but they also are an effective way to pull toxics out of the air. Therefore, we think that when it comes to patio dÃ©cor, the more plants, the better. Some really nice tall ones include Acer palmatum, Aucuba japonica, Eriobotrya japonica, Hedychium densiflorum and Holboellia coriacea.
Only purchase what you need. Something that a lot of us forget that is a big part of making eco-friendly choices is remembering that it’s important to avoid buying in excess. For instance, there are all kinds of outdoor dÃ©cor accessories like throw pills, patio umbrellas and ottomans that you could put on your patio, but if it’s only going to clutter up the space, that will prove to be a waste of money and resources. So, whatever it is that you decide to buy, make sure that it will be something that you and your family can get a lot of use out of. That’s a sure way to know that you definitely made a wise “green” patio purchase.