The heat is on, indoors and out, as soaring temperatures are wearing down appliances and everyone is ready to throw in the proverbial towel and leave town. Instead of giving up, get smart with a few do-it-yourself projects, retrofits and common sense that will keep you, your household and your home and outdoor living spaces cooler, more liveable and energy efficient.
This idea is simple, low-tech, and has been a solution to hot weather for centuries -- peel off those layers. It's your house, your yard, so you are the king or queen of your house. That means on hot days, you can wear as much or little as desired, within reason. Don't embarrass yourself, your family or neighbors or get carried away with the concept. Still, if you want to wear a bathing suit all day, go ahead. Just be aware of what you wear when you answer the door. Think about it.
It seems like a no-brainer, but not everyone remembers to cool it with the DIY projects when temperatures rise. Next time the heat climbs, postpone chores that use oil-based paints, solvents, or varnishes that produce fumes.
No Lighter Fluid
Use an electric starter instead of lighter fluid when heating up a charcoal-briquet barbecue.
Do you really enjoy turning on the oven and raising the temperature in the kitchen by 10 degrees or so? Summer evenings are all about grilling and dining outdoors, so make good use of your outdoor barbecue and use it as a grill, stove and oven. You still have to do the dishes, but running the dishwasher at night will cut down on the heat build-up in the kitchen and save energy.
Replace Incandescent Lights
It's hard to find an old-fashioned incandescent bulb at the store these days, but just in case you still have some around, replace them with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs). They will last longer, save you money on replacements, and lower your cooling costs. Use outdoor fixtures that automatically shut off during the day or come equipped with motion sensors.
Rethink Landscape Lighting
Assess your outdoor and landscape lighting. Outdoor lights should not direct light where it isn't needed. In addition to ENERGY STAR, look for outdoor fixtures that are certified by the International Dark Sky Association to save energy as well as reduce light pollution that can keep your property safe without disturbing dark hours. Solar walkway and deck lights are available at hardware and big-box or online. It's fairly easy to install them yourself without having to bury electric wires or hire an electrician.
If you have a refrigerator with an ice maker, use the cubes (it's good to cycle them through) in pets' water bowls, potted plants or even in the pool if the water has actually become that hot. Some resourceful folks have been known to fill up a kiddie pool with water and ice, scoot a lawn chair next to it and cool off their legs and feet while sipping on an icy beverage of choice.
Install a Cool Roof
In ancient Greece, roofs were painted white to keep buildings cool in the summer. It's like wearing dark, heat-absorbing clothing on a hot day. Similarly, on hot summer days, darker roofs can get as hot as 150°F or more. A cool roof on a hot summer day could stay 50°F cooler. Cool roofs are designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat, which is known as solar reflectance and thermal emittance.
Yes, you can recycle your lawn. Don't pick up the grass clippings after you mow. Clippings will return nutrients and moisture to the soil. Consider buying a mulching lawn mower. This will cut the grass clippings finer and blow them into the lawn.