Constructing or remodeling a home to take advantage of natural air conditioning can not only be ecologically friendly, but also an excellent cost saving move. There are several methods of utilizing natural air conditioning, including cross ventilation, strategic installation of windows, use of building overhangs and using naturally cool building materials.
When building new construction, if the house is placed so that it takes advantage of naturally occurring cross winds, this allows the home to be naturally cooled. Green home design includes taking into consideration the natural angles of the sun when light hits the building, and where breezes naturally rise as a result of the surrounding landscape and geography. For example, homes located in areas where cool evening breezes occur should be placed to take advantage of these winds, so that the home can be cooled down after the heat of the day.
Strategic Installation of Windows
Windows can have a substantial impact on effective natural air conditioning. Windows should be placed primarily on the north and south sides of a home instead east or west facing walls. This placement allows for less strong sunlight flowing through the windows, particularly during warm summer months. This prevents the home from becoming overly hot, especially late in the afternoon, when the heat of the sun is on the western side of house.
Clerestory windows are another excellent way to take advantage of natural air conditioning. Clerestory windows are installed high along walls, near the ceiling. In conjunction with clerestory windows, lower windows are also installed farther down the wall, often near the bottom. When the heat of the day hits, both sets of windows are opened, allowing the hot air to escape from the upper clerestory windows and cool air to flow into the house from the lower windows.
Windows should also be installed along walls where cooling breezes naturally occur. This will allow cool air to flow into the building. Corresponding windows should be installed on the opposite wall to allow hotter air to flow out of the building.
When designing the building, plan for larger overhangs, particularly over large banks of windows. Overhangs create a natural shade area that prevents heat gain from walls. The hotter the walls become, the hotter your indoor space will become, especially on very hot summer days. By creating a naturally shady spot along the walls, this stops or reduces the accumulation of heat. Additionally, by constructing large overhangs over windows, direct sunlight is prevented from radiating into the room.
Use Naturally Cool Building Materials
There are several home construction building materials that create a naturally cool home. These include insulated concrete forms and straw bale buildings.
Insulated concrete forms – also called ICFs – are concrete panels that are poured in forms with insulating foam on the outside. When the panel is delivered, the foam remains intact around it after it is installed in place. Concrete is a naturally sustainable material that allows homes to maintain a natural 70 degree temperature year round, and may almost entirely eliminate the need for any other heating or cooling system in the home, greatly reducing energy costs in an environmentally friendly way.
Straw bale homes utilize bales for natural insulation and the construction of very thick walls. These walls are then covered with wood or metal framing for structural integrity, and then a layer of adobe stucco. Bale walls allow homes to remain naturally cool and comfortable during the summer because of the thickness of the walls. Additionally, the homes are naturally warm in the winter. Straw bales are an ecologically friendly green home construction method, utilizing a sustainable and readily available material.