After a long cool spring, summer appears to be here. Last weekend we had to hang our awnings in an attempt to keep the inside temperature from getting too hot, but we still had to turn on the air conditioner briefly.
As renters, we have been limited in what we could do to make our home comfortable in the summer (especially when our landlady decided to cut down all of the trees on the west side of the house right before summer started one year). But we have figured out a few strategies that I will share.
The first principle to reducing your cooling load is to block the sun off/out of the house. If the sun doesn’t shine in the windows, then it won’t heat up the inside of the house. Better yet, if the sun doesn’t shine on the window or wall at all, it won’t heat the window or wall above ambient temperature, which will then radiate into the house. And even better, if the sun doesn’t shine on the ground near the house the amount of heat reflected back up at the walls is reduced as well. If you own your house you can plant a tree or large shrub, or construct an awning or other shading structure; but most renters are limited to just closing the blinds.
During my second summer in Sacramento I challenged myself to a no-AC summer, which meant figuring out other ways to keep the house cool. I decided to create cheap and non-permanent awnings for the west facing windows by hanging canvas drop cloths from the gutters using glued-on hooks. As I mentioned above, not too long after I moved in here our former landlady cut down the trees and turned the side yard from a mossy and shady lane into a hot dry oven. I was thrilled, I tell you, and in response we bought the longest drop cloth we could find and stretched it all the way along the west wall. Because of the proximity of our neighbor’s house that three feet of awning keeps the sun off of the entire height of the wall for most of the afternoon and evening. At one point we tried canvas from the fabric store, but discovered that the nice thing about canvas drop cloths is that they are thin enough that they don’t block all of the light, just the sun.