Keep Your Cool!
Are you looking forward to the sun? Keep your cool!
Are you looking forward to sitting outside in the warm sunshine this summer? Or do you remember the afternoon rays beating down on your patio or deck making it unusable for much of each day? Here are some pointers to make your outdoor living space more comfortable this year. At the same time, you'll save money by using less energy to cool your house.
The most effective way of cooling a living space, whether indoor or outdoor, is keeping the heat from the sun from building up in the first place. You can do this by either blocking heat or reflecting heat.
- If you have the space to plant trees, do so. For summer cool, place trees on the south side of the house. If you live in a year-round warm climate, use evergreens. If you want to take advantage of winter sun in a cooler climate, plant deciduous trees that will lose their leaves in the fall and allow the rays of the winter sun through their bare branches.
- If you don't have room for trees, use smaller greenery such as shrubs or climbing vines. Grown on trellises, vines are a quick way to provide shading and cooling. Even on a small balcony, plants or vines can be used effectively to block sunlight. If you don't like the look of a climbing vine, try trailing vines in a raised planter box. Ask your local nursery which vine is best suited to your climate and needs.
- An overhead structure such as an arbor may serve a dual purpose by providing shade to your deck and at the same time casting shade on the walls and windows of your house to keep the inside cooler. Wisteria is a favourite vine for such overhead structures, although any vigorous, fast-growing vine is suitable.
- Consider shading an open living area with an awning that will block direct sunlight. A light-colored awning will do double duty by also reflecting sunlight.
- Blinds, shutters and curtains can all be used effectively in outdoor spaces to block the sun. Tightly woven, light-colored, opaque fabrics reflect more of the sun's rays than they let through. Two layers of draperies improve the effectiveness.
- Paved surfaces such as concrete patios or walkways absorb sunlight and then radiate it as heat. Reduce paved surfaces in your outdoor living area as much as possible. If you can't eliminate them, then shade them to prevent heat build-up. Although you may not sit directly in shade that covers a paved walkway, you will benefit indirectly by the reduced temperature in the surrounding area. While you're at it, shade your air conditioning unit, and increase its efficiency by as much as 10%.
- If you do opt for a surface other than pavement, consider greenery such as grass or groundcover. Green surfaces are cooler than bare earth. Using native groundcovers or grasses will reduce the need to water during dry spells and eliminate the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Besides providing shade, trees and vines create a cool microclimate that dramatically reduces the temperature (by as much as 9º F or 5º C) in the surrounding area by a process called evaporative cooling. As water passes through plant leaves during photosynthesis, cool moisture is released into the air.
So think green, leafy, and shady and keep your cool this summer while you enjoy your outdoor living space.
About the Author Debbie Rodgers owns and operates Paradise Porch, and is dedicated to helping people create outdoor living spaces that nurture and enrich them. Visit her on the web at www.paradiseporch.com and get a free report on "Eight easy ways to create privacy in your outdoor space".