Before air-conditioning, Southern builders designed houses for summer comfort. Cool air swept into tall windows, through central halls, and across transoms; hot air floated up above heads in high-ceiling rooms. And you could always escape to the covered porch. While changing your home’s architecture might be tough, with simpler lessons from the South’s past—and modern products—we can be less reliant on energy-hogging AC and more attuned to the natural joys of summer.
Blades Of Glory
Folks in the old South benefited from ceiling fans that draw hot air upward. A model like Haiku from Big Ass Fans, made with sustainable bamboo, can keep you 4 degrees cooler.
Lone Star State residents opened windows in the cool of the evening and shut them with shades drawn, trapping cool air indoors, once daytime temperatures rose. Efficient windows help. Andersen’s triple-pane Eagle/E Series are made from recycled aluminum and Forest Stewardship Council–certified wood.
Since a hot oven can raise temperatures by as much as 10 degrees, most Southern kitchens were in separate buildings. Give your range a rest once in awhile and brush up on your outdoor grilling skills.
Awnings, shades, and shutters can keep inside temperatures from rising more than 1 degree per hour when it’s 85 degrees or higher out. Woodfold offers plantation-style shutters of FSC-certified red alder, finished with water-based stains and solvent-free paints. Rawganique’s organic linen Roman blinds are chemical free.
Lighten The Look
About a third of the heat that builds up in your house comes through the roof, so many Southerners had roofs painted light colors to deflect the sun’s rays. Apply a low-VOC white latex coating, which works on most roofing materials, including asphalt.
If You Must Plug In
When it comes to AC, sometimes you just gotta have it. Make sure, though, that the one you choose has a seal of approval from Energy Star, a federal certification program that ensures a product meets or exceeds the EPA’s efficiency standards.