With global temperatures creeping upwards, and many of the world’s key boom or growth cities located in the tropics, it is not hard to fathom that our reliance upon air conditioning is on the increase.
So what are some alternatives to using air conditioning? At this stage, there is no black and white solution to replace air conditioning units (and merely switching them off does not solve the problem of how to cool down). It would be all well and good to say “wear loose-fitting clothing” or “stay in the shade”(though these tactics do still apply) but trying telling that to someone sweating it out in 45 degree heat in summer. Here, we look at some everyday actions to reduce dependency on air conditioning and help keep cool.
Staying Cool at Home: Insulation
A good first step to reducing one’s air con use is home insulation to regulate the interior temperature of a building, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter. This regulation of a house’s temperature has financial benefits too, with some pundits suggesting a well-insulated home can reduce its energy bill by up to 50 percent.
The most popular form of insulation is made of fibreglass, a combination of sand and recycled glass. Given that contact with this type of insulation can lead to skin irritation and that some scientists suggest that inhaling the small glass particles could be hazardous to your health, it is worth investigating all the numerous forms of insulation available on the market. The below list of DIY techniques and companies—whose offerings are eco-friendly—is a starting point:
- Clay-coated straw is a sturdy, affordable means of insulating your home. Click here for a brief “how to” on doing this yourself.
- Green Homes Europe provides a range of environmentally-friendly insulation options.
- There is also a wealth of natural fibres,such as sheep's wool and recycled textiles, that can be put to use as insulation. See here for a detailed overview.
Clay straw insulation
You can also create your own powerless air cooler using empty plastic bottles. The system is called Eco Cooler and was developed in Bangladesh with support from Grey Group and Grameen Intel Social Business.
Use the Sun to Stay Cool: Solar Air Conditioning
Currently, there is a small but growing trend towards solar air conditioning. Renewable Energy World lists some of the bigger European companies that utilise solar grids to generate water at six degrees celsius which is then processed at an air handling unit and released as cool air.
Shun Those Rays: Reflective Paint
Coating the exterior surfaces of a building with heat reflective paint can reflect up to 90 percent of the sun's heat thereby reducing the amount of heat that enters the building.
New (Actually, Old) Approaches to Architecture
Some architects place an emphasis on developing buildings which harness natural (and at times traditional) cooling techniques, such as Manit Rastogi who included stepwells (bodies of water surrounded by steps) into the design of the Pearl Academy of Fashion in Jaipur. Based on ancient cooling techniques, this water is collected from rainwater and monsoons and helps safeguard the interior from outside.
These measures do require some planning and time investment. For day-to-day activities, this Times of India article has some easy suggestions for keeping cool. Others include:
- Avoiding fried food. Fried food (or indeed excessive amounts of fatty foods) slows down the digestive process, leading to lack of energy and lethargy.
- Avoiding caffeinated beverages. Black tea and coffee are diuretics and dehydrating. However, herbal teas such as chamomile and peppermint can be good alternatives and are exceptionally refreshing when served cold.
- Avoiding cigarettes and alcohol. Again these have a dehydrating effect.
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibres. Loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing helps promote circulation and doesn’t cause you to sweat while natural fibres such as cotton breathe and are more comfortable to wear in the heat.
- Using curtains. Using heavy curtains with a light colour on the side facing outwards will help deflect heat rays. At night, hanging a damp cloth or towel in front of an open window will help provide cool air to the room and promote air circulation.
- Staying shaded. It is not always possible to stay indoors when the heat is on. Ultraviolet rays tend to be at their strongest between 12:00 and 16:00, and if you must go out, use sunscreen and take a parasol.