Being Green – Keeping Cool…

Happy Friday, everyone!

Well it’s 28o C here in our little corner of the planet as I write this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  Not as hot as some of the places on the planet, but still enough to make one consider moving to Australia for the next little while.  As the recent grid failure in the greater Toronto area can attest, people are doing what they can to stay cool despite the heat – no matter the ‘cost’ – and that got me thinking about green tips to stay cool.  I did an Ecosia search on that and it pulled up over 8.6 million links; obviously I’m not the only one to consider this.

If you’re designing a new structure, the choices are many, limited primarily by budget and design.  Site selection, passive solar and extra insulation are all good considerations, and there are many green products, both existing and new that can make your new building more energy efficient.  A couple of things you may not have considered include both the colour of your roof and the colour of your exterior walls.  Black shingle roof tiles may look good, but they absorb a lot of heat.  I’ve seen several homes in this area recently that have been painted a dark charcoal and the same applies there.

If your home has an attic, proper ventilation of the attic space can prevent a buildup of heat above the ceiling.  Again, if you’re building or renovating, consider the most energy efficient doors and windows you can afford.  They’ll not only prevent heat loss in the winter, but they’ll help keep your house cool in the summer.  Careful installation is equally imporant, as air gaps will allow hot air out in the winter and in during summer.  If your location allows it, keep some of the windows open from late evening to early morning as they’ll help cool the house overnight but be sure to close them before the day heats up.  Blinds or draperies (especially those in a lighter colour) can help shield some of the sun’s rays, as do awnings.

Fans (whether ceiling fans or portable ones) do nothing to lower the temperature of a room but the movement of air will help with evaporation of perspiration from your skin, which can help to lower your body temperature.  Keeping that in mind, leaving a fan running when you go out serves no real purpose other than to drive up your electricity bill.  Also, if you live in an area that has both high heat and high humidity, consider a dehumifier.  Lowering the humidy of the air in your controlled space will allow you to raise the temperature of your air conditioning unit while still feeling cool.

Air conditioners, whether portable or central are becoming more and more common, and are adding to the energy demands of virtually every municipality.  Like your furnace, ensure that your A/C unit is properly serviced to keep it running efficiently.  If it has a filter, keep it clean.  Try to use it only as a last resort, and keep in mind that a thermostat is simply a switch activated by heat.  Turning down your thermostat will not cool your house any quicker, but it will force the cooling system to run longer to reach the lower temperature setting.

Heat pumps – whether air-source or ground-source provide both heating in cooler weather and cooling in warmer weather.  Ground-source heat pumps are much more efficient than air-source heat pumps, but they also involve more extensive installation and are more expensive up front.

Remember that everything that uses electricity generates heat, albeit some more than others.  Do you really need to run your clothes dryer in the middle of the day, or could you wait until evening?  How about a clothesline?  Can you wash your clothes in cold water?  Ditto the stove/oven; a microwave uses much less energy than an oven.  A ‘full’ dishwasher uses less water than doing dishes by hand, but leave the dry cycle off.    How old is your refrigerator?  What’s its efficiency rating?  Have you thought about what you want before you open the fridge/freezer door?  Make sure your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans remove air to the outside, and/or open the window when taking a shower.

Have you replaced the incandescent light bulbs in your house with either CFLs or LED lights?  We owe a debt of gratitude to the inventors of the electric light bulb (Edison included) but the standard light bulb generates far more heat than light, as anyone who has ever used an ‘Easy Bake Oven‘ can attest.  Are you familiar with the ‘phantom electrical loads‘ in your house?  These waste energy, but they also generate heat.

On a personal level, wear loose-fitting clothing that is of a natural material.  Confine activity to cooler periods of the day when at all possible.  Drink plenty of water, and stay away from beverages that contain high levels of sugar and caffeine.  Caffeine stimulates the body’s systems and sugar inhibits water absorption by the cells.  Remember that if you’re thirsty you’ve already lost too much water.  Hunger is also often a sign of dehydration.  Drinking hot liquids/ eating spicy foods enables the body’s air conditioning system by making you perspire.  If you’re overheated, lie down and place a cool wet cloth on your forehead or at the back of your neck.  Be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, in yourself and others.

There are many more possibilities, some of them simple and some more complex.  Examples may be found here and here.  Above all, stay cool!  A relaxed mental attitude will go a long way to keeping your body healthy too.

Okay, this week’s links include many I’ve come across this past week, but there are also some links that I discovered when weeding out my bookmarks file – oldies but goodies:

Okay, that’s it for now.

Have a great week!
Mike.

P.S. Global Giving is a group that matches donors with non-profits, and their Green Open Challenge is currently underway. To win, a group needs to recruit at least 50 donors who will donate at least $4000 (collectively, not individually) – an average of $80 each. To some people $80 is a lot of money; to others it won’t even pay for dinner.

All of the causes are worth supporting.  As an example, one of this years participants is Vakan’Ala, a group from Madagascar that is working to reforest the country. Right now Madagascar loses 100,000 ha of forest per year, in a country that is only 58.7 million ha in total area. Their request is here: Primary Forest Restoration in Madagascar

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