In Summer, It Can Be Cool to Be Green
My 1963 tri-level has radiant boiler heat and no ducts for central air. While Colorado summers get well into the 90s, my husband and I generally retreat to the basement to get cool rather than install a window-mounted air conditioner--or an evaporative "swamp" cooler, like so many of our neighbors have.
We haven't settled on a good eco-solution for cooling our old house. But every year, it seems the options get better for green remodelers. As the mercury rises, my mind can't help but wander in pursuit how to cool our home without harming the planet or spending a fortune. If you're also contemplating green ways to beat the heat, you may want to consider one of the latest trends.
Whole House Fans
Long thought to be a loud, but effective method for ridding your home of warm air, whole house fans can eliminate the need for an air conditioner and reduce $5-an-hour air conditioning bills by 95 percent, according to the company QuietCool. The company touts that its fans not only cool and ventilate homes, but also remove "germs, odors and indoor pollution and replacing it with healthier outside air." Whole house fans are installed in the ceiling of your home's top floor and work by bringing in cool outside air through open windows and pushing out warmer air through your ventilated attic space. While you can hear an attic fan run, they've gotten significantly quieter over the years. They typically cost anywhere from $800 to $2,000 installed.
Sure, swamp coolers--big boxes, often placed on your roof--are about as attractive as window-unit air conditioners, but they are traditionally both green and kind to your wallet. An evaporative cooler reduces air temperature naturally through the evaporation of water. They usually cost between $700 to $1000, installed, and require about 25 percent of energy of a traditional central air conditioner. Like a whole house fan, a swamp cooler can improve indoor air quality because it pushes fresh outdoor air through the home. But they generally require between 3.5 and 10.5 gallons of water per hour of operation.
High-Efficiency Air Conditioners
This might sound like a cop out, but it's still green to replace an old air conditioner with a high-efficiency model to reduce home cooling costs and slash energy usage by 20 to 50 percent. SEER ratings of 14 or higher are good for central air conditioners, while EERE ratings of 10.7 or better are acceptable for window units.
In turn, if you are looking for ways to beat the heat, think about today's trends in green cooling--house fans, evaporative coolers, and high-efficiency air conditioners. They can make a positive impact on both your wallet and your carbon footprint.
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.