> Keeping your home Cool in Summer or Warm in Winter for free! - Page 3

The 8th trick - use external cooling

Not so much a trick as setting things up outside so that cooler air can 'ride' into your house after dusk. Basically if you have a water feature or a lawn to a high side of your house the evaporation off this will result in a down current of cooler air at night. So during summer, when you open the windows at night to ventilate, you get a cooling 'boost'.

BTW This is not a 'new' technique - for instance Moroccan house gardens are designed with the house around a central garden area, the garden provides shade and cooled air that carries into the house around the outside. This is also why you have Mediterranean courtyards within a house with a water feature, this not only provides water the evaporation cools the courtyard to provide a place to escape the heat.

Of course, you will want to set things up to stop the opposite happening, i.e. heat riding into your property during the Summer. By this I mean avoid having rocks or asphalt on the lower North side of your property, they will just heat up and 'waft' heat towards your property - adding to your problems. Instead have low shrubs or trees to provide some degree of shade.

The 9th trick - use trees to shade your roof

If you put trees to the East and West of your property, then come the morning or evening they cast partial shade across your roof on summer. This will help reduce the temperature you experience in the property.

If you have water tanks or other large structures you can put them to the East and West of your properties external walls as well - they will reduce the heat load on those walls by casting shade onto them.

If you have Air Conditioning...

Even if you have an air conditioner, it would be wise to do what is mentioned above, as it will reduce your need for A/C and hence reduce your bills and increase the life the A/C unit to boot!

Also look at making sure the A/C unit outside on a split system air conditioner is itself in some form of shade, otherwise you will paying for the A/C unit to cool itself. Also make sure the filters are clean. If you do both of these tips, you could save yourself up to 20% on the running costs.

Also do make sure you are heating/cooling the minimal area - no need to air condition everywhere when you only stay on one or two rooms the most! So close the doors to unused rooms and shut off any vents or ducts to them if possible.

Remember the better your house is at maintaining a comfortable temperature on its own, compared to the external temperature; the less need you will have to run the Air Conditioning.

Other things to consider..

Gaps - Check around doors and windows for significant gaps, below about 2mm don't bother (drag will help deal with it). Use a good quality sealer designed to deal with the job. This will help equally with keeping cool as keeping warm.

Roof ventilation - During Summer the roof space can literally bake and if there is no where for that heat to go it will build a stack of hot air in the roof which will eventually force itself into your living space from the ceiling down (through ceiling fans, down lights, etc). Therefore install just enough ventilation to stop the stacking effect.

Close doors - Don't leave all your doors open, close the doors to rooms you do not use. In this way you have reduced the area to maintain cool or warm.

Natural ventilation - Try to learn from the old ways of keeping buildings cool, like WindCatchers.

CFLs - Use Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) inside. CFLs use 75% less energy and produce 75% less heat than incandescent light bulbs which will save you money as well on cooling. Also consider now LED lights as they are often cheaper and easier to retrofit.

Showers - Turn on the exhaust fan in your bathroom when taking a hot shower, as this removes much of the humid air produced by the shower. This works because humidity makes it feel warmer.

Don't buy into open plan house designs - Having a house with few internal doors means it is very difficult to 'close off' the areas of the house you do not want to heat or cool. This can easily directly translate into higher energy bills, unless your house has extensive complete insulation to compensate. If you feel the need to 'see' space, go for double doors or movable screens; or put up more mirrors, but don't knock through that wall...

Clothing - May seem obvious to state, but if in Winter you can get the family into the habit of wearing a jumper and similar loose but warm clothes; you will save a fortune in heating costs, as you will be using your own body heat to help keep you warm, so allowing you to reduce the heating thermostat.

Turn down (or up) the thermostat - Basically for each degree you turn down (or up when cooling) the thermostat towards the outside temperature you reduce your heating costs and green house emissions by roughly 10%.

Use an electric blanket at night - Again, simple but effective. No need to heat the whole bedroom when you are just in the bed.. Also consider the old hot water bottle. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

External surface area compared to internal volume - A building design which has a large surface area in relation to its internal volume (i.e. lots of external walls and not much internal space) will have a harder time maintaining the preferred internal temperature compared to building with a larger internal volume compared to the external wall surface area..  The reason for this is quite simple, the more external walls the more area the external environment temperature has an 'impact' upon. The best normal house shape to minimize this effect is a simple 2 story 'square' house. If you are prepared to live in an igloo shaped house you will take this effect to a minimum as a sphere is the minimum surface area to cover the maximum volume in ratio.


Finding ways of keeping you house cool in Summer and warm in Winter for less cost is actually quite beneficial to the environment, as you are reducing your environmental impact through consuming less resources. In fact this is a variation of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD); whereby you are taking active steps to reduce your environmental impact now to the benefit of future generations.

Recommended Reading

  • The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling by Daniel D. Chiras

    Passive solar heating and passive cooling—approaches known as natural conditioning—provide comfort throughout the year by reducing, or eliminating, the need for fossil fuel. Yet while heat from sunlight and ventilation from breezes is free for the taking, few modern architects or builders really understand the principles involved.

    Now Dan Chiras, author of the popular book "The Natural House," brings those principles up to date for a new generation of solar enthusiasts.

    In "The Solar House," Chiras sets the record straight on the vast potential for passive heating and cooling. Acknowledging the good intentions of misguided solar designers in the past, he highlights certain egregious erros and shows how to avoid them. More importantly, Chiras explains in methodical detail how today’s home builders can succeed with solar designs.

  • Passive Solar House: The Complete Guide to Heating and Cooling Your Home by James Kachadorian
We suggest you also have a look at the Passive Solar section in our Online Store for more books full of useful information.

Related Articles and Links

Related Tags: heating, cooling, heating costs, passive solar, solar cycle, thermal mass, cross ventilation, ceiling fans, roof insulation, air conditioning, straw-bale, climate change, housing energy efficiency,

Related Listings: Efficient Cooling, Insulation, Green Architects

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Comments left

  • M.sridharan said:

    We are in southern part of India - Tamil Nadu. We are about to build a commercial building. We need to know a cost effective way to keep the inside building temp lower than the outside temp.No Air cons Please.

    ON Tue, 6 Apr 10, 9:08am probably from India  Reply to this comment

  • Karan said:

    thanks, it is best site ever

    ON Wed, 30 May 12, 10:56am probably from India  Reply to this comment

  • David Warner said:

    With growing concern over alternative energy sources, people are more and more looking forward to sustainable energy and cheap alternatives sources for saving their hard earned $$s and also for on-going energy crisis and global warming issues too. And in this way awnings have helped people a lot by saving over 50% on cooling expenses by a recent study by PAMA and hence a considerable growth is expected in the next few years. So, putting money on awnings sounds a nice investment to me.

    ON Wed, 7 Nov 12, 11:18am probably from India  Reply to this comment

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