It’s Cool to be Cool

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It’s Cool to be Cool

by Lucia Annunziata

Summer temperatures are reaching record highs in California and across the planet. How can we keep cool without hiking up our energy bills? Many Californians in the Bay Area don’t have air conditioning units in their homes and areas that once stayed on the lower end of the mercury rising are now inching up. Northern Marin has seen temperatures in the high 90’s since April. Green architects generally try to design spaces that let in lots of  light but how to do this while keeping cool  is the real question.

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When designing a new home one thing to consider is windows. Insulated windows are the best option. And then there’s placement… South facing windows are always a good place to start. Homes with the greatest window exposure to the East and West are the hardest to shade and therefore control how much they heat up in the summertime.

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Image borrowed from Architizer.com

Then there is the roof. A cool roof should be a priority on your “must have list.” A cool roof is one that reflects more light with a radiant barrier of some kind whether it be reflective paint, sheet covering, tiles or shingles.cool roof

                                                                                 Image courtesy of coolroof.org

If you live in an older home, it may be worth the investment to add insulation to your roof. An insulated  roof  will keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Insulated roofing material was not generally used in homes built before the 70’s. Eichler homes, built in the 60’s in Terra Linda and Palo Alto are a great example of the insulation free home.  These flat roofed homes with lots of glass doors can become a literal hot box in the summer months and an ice box in the winter. Insulation can keep the house up to 20 degrees cooler inside.

Keep windows and shutters drawn during the hottest part of the day to keep the house from heating up too much. Desert dwellers know this practice well, and as climates change residents of the Bay Area need to start adopting some of their customs if they want to beat the heat.

Fans can be a great way to keep the air moving, and setting your ceiling fans to rotate counter clockwise in summer will really help if you put them on high speed. Upping the wind chill factor always brings relief.