In the summer months, many of us are of two minds: we’re dying to keep it cool, but we’re also dying not to spend too much on electricity. Not only that, many of us don’t want to overload our town’s power grid during the summer, so we’re turned to AC alternatives.
As it turns out, not only are these effective, but you can take up to 80 percent of the load off of your air-conditioning unit.
A study from the University of Oregon examined data from a 2021 heatwave and found that a combination of shading and natural ventilation did wonders to keep apartments out of the danger zone. And they did this without AC.
“In the Pacific Northwest, where we get such cool night air, we have an amazing climate for passive cooling,” says Alexandra Rempel, a building scientist at the University of Oregon who led the study. “And we should take advantage of it.”
In 2021, a massive heat wave across Washington and Oregon was devastating to people living in homes designed to keep in rather than out. The University of Oregon researchers used 2021 data from cities like Eugene, Portland, and Seattle and ran simulations in a hypothetical west-facing, two-bedroom apartment with different cooling strategies.
They found that open windows were a game-changer. Even opening them for a little bit each day was enough to keep homes out of the danger zone. Using a combination of techniques, the researchers found, could make even triple-digits in the Northwest surprisingly livable.
It sounds obvious, but the effects of simple measures like closing the blinds, awnings outside windows and doors, and fans circulating air were the difference between a working and a broken AC unit. Not only that, but the lesser strain on AC leaves an opportunity for other developments.
“It helps keep AC demand within the reach of renewable energy sources,” says Rempel.