So for those of you just tuning in, I've joined a Green Week group over on Flickr for the week.
At our house, we don't have air conditioning. Many people in the neighborhood cannot believe that we can survive without it. Here are the things we do to help with the heat. Even if you have A/C, these tips should help reduce the amount of time you run it.
1- Use ceiling fans. We have 5 of them in the upstairs of our house and if we're in a room during the summer, there is a fan on. These only work to cool an individual person, by evaporation; they don't actually reduce the temperature of the room. So make sure to turn them off when you're not in the room.
2- We recently installed huge sun shades on our West facing cement porch. This keeps the afternoon sun from hitting it directly and creating a heat sink. And they only cost us $20 each. BTW, this is exactly the effect that works beneficially when a builder uses passive solar design. If we ever build our own house, this will definitely be something we do.
3- I open and close windows based on the heat inside versus outside. When I get up at 5 to exercise (it happens occasionally) I open everything up. We close it all back up when the temp outside equals that inside. Joey has learned when it is time to do this and will announce that it's time to shut the windows.
4- We spend lots of time in the basement in the summer. It is so nice and cool down there; you can feel it as you walk down the stairs. When we had cable installed the workmen commented that they'd like to spend the rest of the day in our basement.
I would also like to mention a few other things we do to save on energy.
We bought an energy-star front-loading washer and dryer. I love these things! I had to restrain myself from adding a picture of them. I've been known to show them to visitors.
Also we've set the computer so that it automatically goes on standby (very low power consumption) when it is unused for more than 5 minutes (for our computer there's a setting on the Control Panel called Power Options). This doesn't close down any of the programs, it just puts everything on hold till you want it again. When you turn the computer back on, it doesn't go through the entire start up again and you don't need to reopen any of the programs you already had going.
We have pretty much replaced all the lightbulbs in our house with fluorescents. But remember, when those need replacing, you can't just throw them in the trash because they contain mercury. This is something they don't really tell you when you buy them, but by law, you're required to dispose of them properly.
And now I'll quickly mention our environmental wishlist...
-More deciduous plants/trees on the south and west side of our house
As long as I'm dreaming, I'll add the following...
-Neighborhood that is within walking distance to shops, entertainment, etc.
-A butt that doesn't get really sore after riding a bike. (I had to sleep on my stomach for 3 days after riding in Moab- I know, I'm a wuss!)