Keeping cool can be a challenge during the steamy summer months. Today it is 105 degrees in New York City and Washington, DC! Hawaii residents enjoy the most benign climate in the world - we are spoiled. But even in Hawaii we sometimes need to find ways to beat the heat - without jacking up our utility bills. Here are some quick ideas as well as long-term solutions. So pour yourself a cool drink, and see if you can find some ideas for a no-sweat summer.
Fans are a Breeze
Ceiling fans are the most convenient and economical way to cool your home. They don’t lower the temperature, but they create a sort of “wind chill” that makes you feel more comfortable. The best brands will have a long warranty, and offer wobble-free quiet breezes for many years. Some have a reverse-direction setting. This is useful for directing the air flow to the sides rather than straight down the center of the room. Be sure to select the appropriate blade size for your room, and look for one with enough ceiling clearance to avoid injuries or decapitation (just kidding). . It’s best to have an electrician install them, as it is crucial for them to be wired and secured properly – not an amateur job. Click here if you are curious about how and why “wind chill” works, even in the tropics: http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/atmospheric/question70.htm
Open the Windows
Most homes will have good air flow if windows are kept open to catch the trade winds. It’s a no-brainer. If you have heavy drapes, blinds, or furniture that blocks the flow of air, you may be letting the air stagnate and creating your own personal oven. It’s wise to close the window coverings only when the sun is directly hitting the windows.
In Praise of Jalousies
Speaking of windows, all are not created equal. There is a trend to replace jalousies or louvers with more esthetically-pleasing styles. Many window replacements - such as sliding or double-hung windows - cut the ventilation in half, which is a high price to pay for a “mainland look.” Not only does this create stifling rooms, but these windows need to be closed against the weather and for security reasons, every time you leave the house. Not a brilliant solution unless you plan to live in sealed air-conditioned comfort most of the time.
Consider planting a shade tree on the east and west sides of your home. Plant it so that it’s branches, when mature, will shelter your roof from afternoon sun. Your home may be between 15 – 20 degrees cooler from this simple long-term solution. Keep in mind the mature size of the tree, and how much space you have for branches and the root system. Don’t create a future hazard for you or your neighbors!
Trees beautify your home and your entire neighborhood, and can therefore increase property values, and provide shelter for birds and wildlife. They can also improve soil, limit erosion, and enhance privacy, and buffer noise from neighbors and nearby roads.
Impatient? To quote John F. Kennedy, “The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'"
Eat salads, sandwiches, or foods that can be quickly heated up on the stove. Have an ice cream sundae for dinner (why not? It’s legal and fun). If you really need an oven and have a small family, see if a toaster-oven will do the trick. Or use the hot weather as a great excuse to eat out.
When you are shopping for homes, you will notice that some are as hot as a pizza oven, while others stay comfortably cool. It is costly to cool down a naturally hot home, and may involve adding air conditioning, changing to a cooler roof, or replacing windows. It’s a good idea to see homes in the heat of the day to find out how comfortable they will be in hot weather. If the home is vacant and closed up, before you judge, open the windows to see if there is enough natural air flow to cool things down.
Hot and Cool Roofs
The coolest roofs allow air to circulate and escape from the attic space. Tile roofs and shake roofs are among the best, because they allow hot air to flow out and also permit moisture to be released. Others reflect the heat - such as aluminum shingles- to keep the house cool.
Composition shingle roofs are very popular and practical, but have no such air flow. Attics can get up to 160 degrees, with oven-like air trapped within and keeping your home stifling. Some useful solutions include solar-powered vent fans installed in the roof, which automatically open in the heat of the day and fan out the heated air. It goes without saying that darker-colored roofs will attract heat while a light roof is a cooler option.
Air conditioning feels great on the hottest days. If you have special health or comfort needs, AC is great. Just turn it on and let it work its magic.
Central AC is best for homes that have been architecturally designed for that purpose. They require extensive ducting, insulation, and windows and doors that are designed to seal – or your cold air will go right out again. Split systems can be added to existing homes, and have the cooling unit placed outside the home, with 2 or more wall mounted fan units in various rooms of the home. Then the most basic is the wall or window mounted boxy unit, which offer cold air but suck up more electricity. Remember that if you have leaky jalousie windows, un-insulated walls, and a hot attic, you are just putting a band-aid on the problem. Consider some of the solutions above – along with your wall unit- if you want an effective solution.
Studies show that household air conditioning accounts of one of the highest amounts of electricity consumption in many homes, so make sure that you are making wise choices if you install it.
Air conditioning efficiency is crucial if you don’t want extremely high utility bills. The SEER scale (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is how you can compare efficiency of different units. The higher the SEER, the more efficient, so look for a SEER of at least 12 or more.
Have a cool, comfortable summer. And when the thermometer climbs out of your comfort zone, the beautiful Hawaii beaches are offer you another simple way to cool down! If you need help finding a cool home in Hawaii, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I specialize in finding hot deals!
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Location, location, location. Wahiawa is a hidden gem and the absolute best place to live! Hardly need to water cuz it rains regularly and the cool mountain breeze flowing between well spaced houses with big yards and properly placed trees illiminates the need for AC if the house is designed for proper air flow!
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