Miami-based columnist offers some green tweaks to your routine
BY GAVIN LEIGHTON FOR GREENING OF OIL
As summer approaches, many thermostats are being turned down to avoid the heat. I am painfully aware of the rising temperatures since it has surpassed 90 degrees here in Miami, Florida.
And while lowering the thermostat is a straightforward way to cool down, it can also use a lot more energy than other methods (especially if you don’t have a hyper-efficient air conditioning unit).
But there are a few ways you can lower both the internal temperature of the house and your body temperature without cranking down that thermostat.
Most of us already know a few simple ways to cool down. In the summer we should wear light colored clothes that are loose fitting. Additionally, we should avoid those large meals that release large amounts of metabolic energy, and we should stay hydrated. But there are still other behavioral changes we can make that will both reduce our internal temperature and our environmental footprint. Keep reading.
One of the main reasons we turn down the thermostat is to sleep comfortably. We may be able to stick it out the rest of the day, but at night it's a lot harder. However, that method cools down the entire house or apartment whereas the goal should be to only cool down the bedroom where you're sleeping.
Luckily there's a simple solution: use a floor or desk fan.
Fans will circulate the air in the room and also cool your body temperature without having to turn down the thermostat as much as before. For example, if you know you sleep comfortably at 74 degrees, you may turn your thermostat down to get it to that temperature before going to bed. Try experimenting with temperatures in the 76-78 degree range and use a fan to get comfortable enough to sleep. In most cases, the fan will use much less energy than an AC unit (remember: this isn’t necessarily true if you bought an extremely efficient AC unit in the last couple of years, check with your manufacturer if you aren't sure). Similarly, if you sleep under a comforter during the winter, ditch it and sleep under a single sheet instead. If you're afraid of ruining the decor in your room, just use the duvet cover and store the comforter during the summer months.
Lately a lot is being said for using windows for passive heating in energy efficient buildings in cold climates. The idea is simple. The solar energy can pass through the windows, the energy will be absorbed by the building, and then re-radiated as heat. This is true, and you can use this principle in reverse to keep your house cool in the summer.
The idea is to keep light out of the house during the day. To do this, you can simply buy blinds that have a white, reflective background that keep the sunlight from being absorbed by items in the house. This idea also applies to light fixtures, the more lights you have on in the house the more energy that will be transferred to heat. So turning off the lights until they're really needed can reduce your energy bill in more than one way. There are a number of energy efficient curtains on the market for any budget. Target has quite a few colors and fabrics to choose from.
And finally, for the slightly more dedicated, we can take a page from mother nature. There are many animals that have learned to deal with heat via a process known as ‘evaporative cooling’. We can do the same, especially since most of us have access to water.
All you have to do is run some cool or cold water over pulse points on the body. Your wrists are the most convenient, and cooling the back of your neck cools the blood going to the brain, which makes you feel cooler almost instantly. Again, the point being the running water uses less energy than using the AC unit. But if water is scarce in your area, or you want to be extra green, purchase a couple reusable gel packs. Keep them in the freezer and use them in place of running water - I recommend at least two so you can have them on rotation.
Employing these techniques will help you avoid over-running your AC unit, thereby reducing the amount of energy you use, and money. And since many of these are changes to behavior, you can implement them almost immediately. Here’s to staying cool!
Links of interest
Keep cool without an air conditioner
About Gavin Leighton
Gavin Leighton is a first year graduate student studying biology at the University of Miami. He is focusing his efforts on the maintenance of a cooperative behavior in an African passerine.
Born and raised near Philadelphia, PA, Leighton attended Colgate University in New York. At Colgate, he majored in environmental biology and was the president of the environmental student group on campus for two years. Leighton was also a member of the sustainability council at Colgate University. The council was a group composed of faculty, staff, and students that made advised the administration on environmental decisions.
Visit Leighton's website.
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