Those who live in the southern climates, particularly the Deep South, know that cooling the house is not a luxury but a necessity. Cooling your home efficiently decreases the cost of home ownership, and also reduces the load that the homeowner places on the planet. When the sweat is pouring off his brow like rain, most homeowners don’t think about the planet. So let’s think about it now while we’re comfortable.
There are two kinds of cooling, active and passive. Active consists mostly of air conditioning, although attic fans can be beneficial in some climates. Passive cooling should be planned for from the beginning of building or buying a house, but can reap great rewards.
Passive cooling is best accomplished by shade, and is therefore very low in operating cost. Planting deciduous trees on the southern side of the house will screen the home from the summer sun, but still allow the warmth of the winter sun to pass through the branches after the leaves have fallen. If you drive around the plains you will see all of the lonely free-standing farmhouses surrounded by trees planted closely to them: Nineteenth Century climate control. Positioning the house where a breeze is frequent is also a good idea, as is the old Greek principle of the overhanging Southern exposure.
Active cooling is the sort that costs money to operate. Traditional air conditioning has undergone so many improvements that there is no real reason not to invest in it. It is designed to take the heat from the air in the house and dump it into the air outside. More modern, but also more expensive, groundwater heat pumps take the excess heat and put it into the ground. Although this is much more efficient when the weather is very hot, it requires a good deal more expense to install. An attic fan is very effective and inexpensive, especially if there is no shade available for the roof.
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