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Staying Cool and Green this Summer

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The ReGeneration is on the move! To make it easier for customers, Dell employees and stakeholders to find and participate in our conversations about the environment, we’re moving the best of our ReGeneration.org blog over here to Direct2Dell.  You’ll find the same great posts about what’s news in “green” business and technology, along with the green tips so many of you tell us you love. Join the conversation!

The sno(Barton Springs Pool - Austin, Texas) Lowering your core temperature is an excellent way to keep your cool during the dog days of summerw cone and lemonade stands are open for business.  As are neighborhood swimming pools.  With the price of gasoline soaring ever higher and families and friends piling into their cars, desperately searching for large bodies of water and cooler climates, it’s official.  Summer is almost upon us.

If lifetime in the brutal summer heat of Texas has taught me anything, it’s ways to escape the heat without having to rely solely on my air-conditioning unit.  This post will lay out a few of those hard-earned lessons, as well as a few tricks and tips  I learned from others in the course of my research.  So find a nice shady spot and pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea because here are some ReGeneration tips for staying cool and green this summer.

Around the House
So much of our hard-earned money and energy is spent cooling our homes, but there are other ways to stay comfortable indoors without breaking the bank on electricity bills or pumping any more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.  Since building a nicely insulated strawbale home is out of the question for 99.9% of us, there are some simple things you can do around your house that will go a long way to cooling your abode and minimizing your carbon footprint.

Most homes built before the advent of air conditioning were already designed with the principles of passive cooling in mind.  Features like high roofs, attic vents and even the direction the house faces were employed to cool homes in warm regions using the laws of thermodynamics instead of A/C units.  If you live in a newer home, you can still apply a few passive cooling techniques.  One of the key tenets of passive cooling dictates that you must eliminate the heat from entering your home.  This can be accomplished by reflecting the suns rays with lighter colored roofing, strategically planted bushes and trees to direct breezes into the house and for shade, and through heat reflective film covering the windows where the sun shines the most.  Having a well-ventilated attic will do wonders to break the heat up where it accumulates most.  A few well-placed  fans will help circulate the air and  cool your home significantly, and use much less energy than air conditioning units alone.

Of course, getting rid of your air conditioner altogether is unrealistic in the warmer regions of the world, but if used in conjunction with these techniques, you will find your electric bills dropping almost immediately while you lounge in comfort in your cool house.  Keep your A/C unit itself shaded and change its filter at least once a month during the warmer months to keep it from overworking to reach the same result. Any electric appliances or lights should be moved away from those wall A/C units as they emanate heat and will trick the unit into using up more energy than it needs to.

Water is Your Friend
Keeping you core temperature low is not only wise for reasons of health and longevity, it’s also an easy way tBarton Springs Pool - Austin, TXo keep your body cool for hours during the hottest times of the day.  When I was in college and lived in a house with no A/C, a cold shower in the morning and afternoon would keep me comfortable throughout the day.  Trips to the local swimming hole also serve this function, and are fun to boot so don’t hesitate to dip your feet or take a plunge when the opportunity presents itself.  A few well-placed dabs of water on your wrist or other pulse points have been shown to lower core temperatures.  A little perspiration goes a long way, and by the same token wetting the sleeves of your shirt works to cool you as it pulls the heat from your body and evaporates.

Chill with Chili Peppers
It’s no mere coincidence that the local cuisines of many of the hottest areas of the Earth will set your tongue ablaze after the first bite.  While it may seem counter intuitive, spicy food can also help cool your body. As your pores open, you perspire and you drink glass after glass of water to stop the inferno in your mouth, all of which contribute to catching even the faintest of breezes and cooling your body down.  If you are unfamiliar with how hot a certain chili pepper may be, this chart has a nice list of chili and how it ranks in spiciness.

As with my post on “greening” your garden, this is by no means a complete list of ways to keep cool during the summer without increasing your carbon footprint or spending too much money.  People who have lived through extremely hot summers tend to acquire quite a bit of sage wisdom of their own.  The heat I’ve endured has been in a very humid environment.  There are completely different techniques that can be applied in places with dry heat.  What did I miss?  Let us know in the comments section below this article.  Don’t be shy.  It’s nice and shady down there!

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