Air conditioning without running out of money

House & Garden The Green HouseKeeping a house cool in summer is only easy if the heat doesn’t activate your inner worry wart to agonize over the greenhouse gas emissions and extra electricity costs of running an air conditioner.

CSIRO research found a two-star rated air-conditioner could create 18 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over a 10-year operating life – which is more than four times as much as an average family car produces in a year – not to mention adds hundreds of dollars a year to electricity bills.

But there are ways to keep a cool head in a home that won’t pillage the environment to remain habitable during a heatwave – and according to Ric Butt, the principal of Strine Designs, most techniques involve keeping the heat out of your home before you start getting bothered.

“When you buy a house, don’t buy a hot box. Buy something that doesn’t turn into an oven during summer. A thick-walled, well-shaded house will work best in most parts of Australia,” he says.

Other ideas to cool a home without increasing your electricity bill include:

–         drawing the blinds and curtains in the morning and leaving them shut during the hottest part of the day;

–         opening the blinds and windows at dusk to cool the house with cross-flow ventilation from the evening breeze;

–         shading west and north-facing windows with plants, awnings or blinds;

–         having a light-coloured roof and blinds to reflect the heat rather than absorb it;

–         installing insulation in ceilings and ideally walls and floors, too.

EnergyAustralia’s efficiency expert Paul Myors says ceiling fans are a great cooling technology that requires as little energy as running a light bulb to keep cool by.

Your Home principal author Chris Reardon recommends evaporative coolers in dry parts of Australia which keep homes cool using less energy than traditional air conditioners – but can use more water.

The Australian Government’s greenhouse office says insulating your house not only saves on energy bills but can halve the greenhouse gas emissions from heating and cooling – in fact, insulation is one of the cheapest things you can do to improve the environmental efficiency of a home.

Oh, and not all air conditioners require a flashing warning sign that reads “environmental rapists live here”. If you want to rely on AC for the hottest days of the year, invest in modern, efficient technology with a high star rating and place it in a well-insulated room.

“If you do have an air conditioner, don’t use it every day. And get used to wearing summer clothes around the house. If we all stripped off a little more, we wouldn’t find our houses so hot,” Butt says.



This article was first published in House & Garden magazine.