As heat waves get increasingly severe and frequent, we are all learning how to adapt together — as communities and individuals. When it’s hot inside and out, it can make focusing and sleeping difficult and can be deadly. From creative, unique solutions to the tried and true, we asked ISeeChangers how they are trying to keep cool when at home.
Closing shades early in the day
When heat is unbearable, we closewindows and all the cellular shades and the insulated drapes on the picture window early. This generally keeps house cool until late aft when we turn on the mini split AC. after the sun goes down and evening is cooler, we open shades, windows and doors after turning AC off.
When the temp rises to near 90 and above, I plan outdoor gardening and other activities for early morning or early evening when it’s cooler. During the hottest part of the day I do indoor activities where I have AC or I sit in the shade of a tree outdoors, especially it there is a breeze, and read. I also prepare foods for dinner early in the day when it’s cooler and refrigerate them until meal time.
Planting and nurturing trees to shade the house
The northeast coastal island where I live, receives cooling southerly breezes from the ocean, but our island is increasingly, densely developed with only a few feet of street-front space between the residential buildings in our neighborhoods, so these massive structures block each other from cooling breezes while their large mechanical cooling units release heat into the neighborhoods already lacking cooling breeze air flow. Large mature trees are routinely destroyed in the new construction process ongoing in most neighborhoods. The mature trees are replaced with small twigs, often crape myrtles, which will never replace the shade lost of the previous trees, nor the habitat and food sources for year round and migratory bird species.
Meanwhile, I protect and preserve a small yard-sized forest of mature indigenous trees that provide year round shelter, habitat, and seeds and berry foods for the yard’s small ecosystem. These trees shade my yard including the breezes that blow through their shade. This summer, the tree-shade-cooled breezes have mostly been sufficient cooling, along with fans, thus far with no air conditioning. But when I leave our cooling shade, I am immediately, acutely aware of the urban heat island issue of our island’s densely packed buildings all exhausting heat, while rooftop, concrete, and asphalt surfaces are all absorbing the heat of the summer sun, with few trees providing relief.
My grandparents lived in older rural communities, where large, mature deciduous trees, often oaks, stood along the east and southerly sides of houses, as summer sentinels shading them from the heat of the summer sun. Often, evergreens were planted along the north and west borders to block the cold winter winds and lessen the heating demands for the houses. The deciduous trees, of course, lost their autumn leaves, allowing the winter sun to contribute some warming to the houses. This old way of tree planting in residential spaces is a sustainable landscaping neighborhood model that needs to be restored in order to reduce some of our energy demands and global warming contribution in our climate crisis world.
A/C powered by solar
How do you keep your indoor spaces cool during heat waves? Tell us in a new ISeeChange post!
Cover image via Clean Wal-Mart on Flickr.