Forget AC: Cool Your Home Naturally

Cool your home naturally. There are numerous ways to reduce home cooling costs, such as ceiling fans, natural ventilation, minimizing heat gain, weather sealing, insulating, window shading and glazing, roof lightening and landscaping.

| August/September 2007

The turbine ventilator on top of this cupola uses natural wind power to pull warm air up and out of the building.

The turbine ventilator on top of this cupola uses natural wind power to pull warm air up and out of the building.

Photo by Image 45

Slash (or eliminate) your air conditioning bills, cool your home naturally with these simple tips and remodeling recommendations.

Forget AC: Cool Your Home Naturally

Space cooling and heating can account for up to 45 percent of your total home energy use every year, but there are numerous strategies you can employ to reduce cooling costs. For instance, a ceiling fan used in conjunction with air conditioning lets you raise the thermostat by as much as 4 degrees while maintaining the same comfort level in a room. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that each degree below 78 degrees on your thermostat will increase your air conditioning bill by 8 percent. You also can use natural ventilation to capture and create breezes, or to help you take advantage of nighttime drops in temperature.

Other money-saving ideas include minimizing heat gain, weather sealing, insulating, window shading and glazing, roof lightening and landscaping (see “Best Bets for Passive Cooling”). Because natural ventilation is one of the most cost-effective ways to cool your home, we’ll examine it here in greater detail.

Natural Home Ventilation

Natural ventilation makes the most of air motion to cool you and your home. This is the primary passive cooling strategy in all climate zones, but the nuances of its application vary by region. Understanding seasonal wind patterns will help you adjust your window openings, outdoor spaces and windbreaks to increase your comfort without relying on nonrenewable fuels.

Take some time to think about the breezes and winds around your home:

• At what time of day and year are the winds strongest?

john large
3/16/2015 6:57:13 PM

Hello, I seen some of these other comments about whole house fans, I believe this is one of the best ways to cool your home and a low cost versus running air conditioning. Whole house fans use natural cooling to bring temps inside home down drastically, quicker, cheaper and efficiently. Please visit for more info. Please feel free to ask questions. Thank you

5/12/2013 10:50:21 PM

I live in a tropical country and you can just imagine the heat during summer. It is unbearable and we simply can't keep the AC unit running all day long. That's why during summer, we do some repairs to try to keep the house cool and now, we have a whole house fan to help keep us cool and reduce our electic bill.




jean ockert_1
7/25/2010 2:47:21 PM

Roof turbines are a total waste of money. I wish somebody would stop these rocket scientists from promoting them as a good investment. Considering that it takes force (wind) to turn the turbine, it takes more FORCED AIR to turn it in order to pull out a little PASSIVE AIR. This PASSIVE AIR moving out is always less than the FORCED AIR entering to power the turbine. To make matters even worse, much of the exiting air is from the air stream that just entered. A turbine is most effective when it is standing still (no wind), allowing rising hot air to exit and thereby pulling cooler air into the attic through the eaves and/or gable vents. Also, turbines break down after some time, prompting additional (wasted) expenditure. For passive ventilation, the best money is spent on installing a continuous ridge vent.

greg w
7/23/2010 10:26:52 PM

The best summer home cooling for us came when a storm damaged our roof. We covered the black asphalt shingles with a white metal roof. What a difference in AC cost ! We easily reduced our AC electrical consumption 25 % We were also able to reclaim some of the cost with the Energy Star Rebate. Hope this helps.

7/23/2010 1:12:41 PM

I second the request for articles with specific plans! I've wanted to put in a ceiling fan, perhaps in a copula, for years -- but exactly how to size the fan one build the box are still a question. And Joe: the link you offer is subscription only; can you share a few details please?

pat miketinac
6/26/2009 8:41:44 PM

Brad, what you are referring to is commonly called a "cool tube". For details, type "My Mother's House" in the search box at the top of this page. I visited that house and saw them work. I did not use them for my earth shelter because the ground temp. here in FL is 72 degrees and the house stays near that temp.

lorraine davidoff
7/25/2008 9:23:12 AM

I recently discovered a "modern" cooling technique. Sleeping on an air mattress with only a cotton sheet over it is cooling, the air underneath you pulls body heat away and you lose the hot spot your skin makes against a regular mattress. I live in HOT Texas, and I have been sleeping on an air mattress the past few 100+ days. I turned my a/c up another 4 degrees, turned the ceiling fan off, and slept in cool comfort. The mattresses are under $50, some under $20. A second use for my camping equipment. I've decided to remove my bed mattress for the summer and glue velcro tabs to secure the air mattress to my box springs.

joe burge_1
7/25/2008 8:30:42 AM

In response to Brad's question, modern architects are "re-discovering" what the Romans knew 2000 years ago, that passive geothermal cooling was easy.

joe burge_1
7/25/2008 8:19:05 AM

One of the best resources is to simply look at older buildings before AC. I live in a 1900 era house, and the high ceilings, and heavy construction all make for better use of passive heating and cooling. Transoms, ceiling fans, lots of chimneys, huge porches all show how people got by before modern HVAC.

12/5/2007 3:19:53 PM

hi is there any articles or how to on using underground duct to increase thetemp temp of air being brought into a house for cooling or heating ? thanks brad

8/11/2007 8:30:24 AM

I was so happy to see your article on passive cooling - but sad to see that it contained broad points that almost every one else talks about. If we are serious about passive cooling, let's have articles with drawings and diagrams. Tell a bit, but show us more. Seeing is believing, and believing leads to action. Thanks again - and please go the extra mile? I will thank you; the planet will thank you.

8/10/2007 8:54:54 PM

Is there a way to build solar panels from scatch? To build panels seperatly for each project, heating,cooling, lights.

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