One of the main reasons people move into tiny homes and off the grid is to minimize or eliminate their use of electricity. Of course, this poses a big problem: What about AC? Air conditioners use a lot of electricity – typically more than what most off-grid solar systems can reasonably handle. Most people these days are used to living with AC, even if they just have a small window unit. The idea of not being able to cool your house down on demand is downright scary to some folks, especially those who may experience hotter than average summers in their region. The good news is, if you plan on living in a tiny house, it’s relatively easy to keep a small space naturally cool with a little know-how and proper planning.
There are several methods you can employ to ensure your house stays cool without the need for central air or even a window AC. Granted, these methods won’t keep your home quite as cool as an air conditioner can, but they can certainly eliminate the need for one if you live in a moderate climate. However, no matter where you live, or how big your house is, you can definitely use some of these cooling tactics to at least substantially reduce your need for running your AC.
5 Methods to Keep Your Home Cool Without Air Conditioning
1. Cross Ventilation
Cross ventilation is as simple as it sounds. It’s the basic idea of creating a draft, the concept behind shotgun style homes. Cool air enters from one side of the room or house while hot air exits through the other. Cross ventilation can be implemented horizontally or vertically. The best part is, when done correctly, there’s no need for machines to drive the vents since hot air will naturally rise and escape through high vents while cool air gets sucked in through low ones. That said, sometimes creating a good draft is as simple as opening two juxtaposing windows.
2. Light Colors
While you may find the look of a dark roof appealing, it’s a really bad idea if you’re trying to keep your house cool. A black roof can actually get 100 percent hotter than a white roof – it’s basically like having a solar heater over your house. It’s not just your roof you should be thinking about; the walls are equally as important, as they will collect a lot of radiant heat during the early and later parts of the day while the Sun is lower in the sky. When chooses colors for your house, the lighter the better. You can also use radiant barrier paints to maximize this effect.
3. Radiant Barriers
A radiant barrier is anything that prevents the Sun’s rays from entering your home. Remember, we can’t see all of the Sun’s rays, so just because you don’t see visible light coming through your walls, doesn’t mean photons aren’t still passing through and heating up your house. When it comes to installing a radiant barrier, most builders either use a radiant barrier foil under the wall panelling, radiant barrier paint on the exterior of the house, or a combination of each. These types of barriers can reflect about 90 to 95 percent of the Sun’s rays, which alone can substantially reduce the interior temperate of your home.
4. Shading and Plants
Keeping your house well shaded is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep it naturally cool, and the good news is, you don’t have to live under a giant tree to achieve this. Planting shrubs and bushes around the exterior of your home can be an effective way to keep sunlight off your walls. Another benefit to this is that the water collected by and evaporated off the plants will add an additional cooling effect around the perimeter of your home. In addition to this, keep your curtains and blinds closed while the Sun is shining directly on your windows.
5. Position Windows Away From the Sun
When deciding where to put the windows in your tiny house, choose locations where they will not be in direct sunlight. For example, if your house faces north and south, it wouldn’t be a good idea to put all your windows on the east and west walls, where they’ll soak up Sun rays all morning and afternoon. You can also place windows under porches and awnings to keep them out of direct light. If for some reason you can’t control where the windows in your house are located, simply rotate the orientation of the whole house, if possible. It’s also wise to limit the amount of windows and glass used in your house as much as possible, without sacrificing too much light of course. You want to be able to see inside during the day, but you don’t want direct sunlight pouring in all day. Avoid the use of skylights completely, which will practically turn your home into a greenhouse.
If you plan on living in an extremely hot and humid climate, like Miami, FL, you may want to reconsider living without AC. Some regions only get hot during certain times of the day or year, but others stay warm all the time, rarely giving your house a chance to cool down. It’s also important to remember that in a humid climate, moisture will accumulate inside of your home, which will leave you feel hot and muggy. The moisture in the air can also do damage to your belongings, stored food, and other interior parts of your house; as well as lead to issues with mold and mildew, especially over a long period of time.
On the other hand, if you plan on living in a climate that is cold most of the year, it would be wiser to focus your efforts on keeping your home warm without a heater. Even if you find the summer months unbearable, running a window AC and/or some fans a few months out of the year is a lot better than having to constantly run a heater the rest of it.