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As Energy Costs Rise, Alternative Solutions Come Forward

When extreme weather struck, from heat waves to blizzards, people used to turn their air conditioning and heaters on automatically. However, energy costs have started to make people think twice about their home energy use. There’s been a growing interest in passive climate control in newer homes, with buyers and contractors concerned about better insulation and weatherproofing. Homes that are able to maintain heat and cool off quickly when needed can help families save money, since they won’t need to continually run the heater or AC.

 

Electricity and gas bills skyrocket during extreme weather, and people realize that more fossil fuels are being burned to generate that energy. Many of us are looking for smart, alternative ways to cool or warm our homes instead of flipping the high-energy switch on major appliances. Let’s check out some of the ideas.

 

Start with the roof

 

The roof is the largest surface area on your home that’s subjected to constant sunlight and radiation. In many neighborhoods, urban and rural, the roof is a dark color, which enables it to absorb a fair amount of the sun’s heat naturally. This isn’t ideal, when it’s sweltering outside, since the interior of your home will absorb this heat. It’s the same principle as wearing a dark jacket outside on a sunny day – the color will absorb more light and increase your warmth.

 

This heat dissipates into the home itself, however, which tends to make it hotter indoors than outdoors. To combat this phenomenon, the roof should be given a light color, such as white or beige. Reflective shingles, tiles, or even a sheet covering can create a lighter hue. This helps to reflect the sunlight away from your home, reducing the overall temperature of the interior. This type of passive climate control can reduce the hours your AC stays on. Think about painting your roof, if possible. The rest of the home will stay cooler during the summer, and that should reduce the need for air conditioning.

 

Add windbreaks

 

If a residence has a strong, northerly wind during the winter, heating costs rise significantly. Air may feel as if it sifts through your windows during a howling storm. This can be terrible if you’re trying to keep heat inside of your home – and bugs out too.

 

You may plant evergreen trees or bushes on the north side of your property. Because the plants are evergreen, they don’t lose their foliage across the year. Not only can this help shield you against high winds, but it can have the bonus effect of screening your home from the public, giving your property more privacy.

 

During the fall and winter months, northerly winds will encounter the evergreen plants, which cut the force of the cold air. Although your home may still be cool, the chilling winds won’t contribute as much to excess cold, because they won’t be hitting your home at full force. Your heaters can then be turned down to reduce energy costs through the colder months.

 

Deciduous trees work double duty

 

Use the sun’s angle to warm and cool your home throughout the year. Plant deciduous trees strategically on the south or southwest side of the property. These are the types of trees that lose their foliage seasonally, adjusting to the temperature.

 

In the winter, bare trees allow low-angle sunlight to permeate the home and warm it naturally. During the summer, dense foliage blocks solar radiation from the home, effectively cooling the property without resort to air conditioning. It’s like nature is there to protect your home.

 

If possible, try to create an arc of trees at the southwest. Hot, afternoon sun in the summer strikes the west side, causing extensive heat in your home. With proper care, these trees will last for decades of natural energy conservation.

 

Install ceiling fans

 

Instead of turning on the central air, flip the switch on a ceiling fan in each room. Because the fan creates a technical wind chill, the room feels cooler during the summer. It increases the amount of air circulation and can be great when paired with an open window, helping fresh air come in. Since you can control the speed of a ceiling fan, it can be far more  energy efficient than an air conditioning unit.

 

You can also warm the room in the winter by changing the blades’ spin direction. Pushing the air up to the ceiling forces warm air down to the living space, keeping everyone more comfortable on winter days. When everyone leaves the room, the fan should be turned off to conserve energy.

 

Energy conservation is relatively simple when you apply basic science to your home. Use shade and air flow effectively to cool or warm the house. Consider investing in trees to block unwanted weather elements and use ceiling fans more often. Energy costs will dip dramatically.

 

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