Our house gets really, really hot in summer. We have a single air conditioning unit in our bedroom, but hate to run it all of the time because of the cost. What else can we do without adding more air conditioners?
Answer from Ross Sanders:
What a timely question! With numerous areas throughout the country are getting hammered by high temperatures, we are all looking for ways to stay cool. Here are a few immediate strategies as well as some long-term strategies you should consider to help you all stay cooler!
Short Term: Keep blinds closed during the day, or better yet, block the sun with an exterior awning. A properly installed awning can reduce heat gain in your home up to 65 percent on southern windows and as much as 77 percent on eastern and western windows
Short Term: Consider installing solar screens, which resemble standard window screens, except they, block light and cut glare without obstructing the view or eliminating airflow. They also provide privacy by restricting the view into your house.
Short Term: Night flush your house. Open whatever windows and doors you can as soon as outside temperatures are lower than inside. This will let the cooler air flow through and drive out the heat. If you have passive solar heating (mass absorbing daytime heat), night flushing on hot days can really help reduce that heat loading.
Long Term: Plant deciduous trees (bushy trees and shrubs whose leaves fall off during the winter) on the sunward side (especially south and west) of your windows. In winter, the leafless tree should still allow some daylight in for passive solar heat.
Long Term: Place operable windows such that main rooms get cross-breezes. For multi-story spaces, place operable windows low and high to allow the stack effect to "pull" the warm air out of your home.
Long Term: Consider adding a mechanical ventilation system to help move air in lieu of individual bathroom fans; modern systems can give you amazing control both on air changes within your home and humidification.
Long Term: Have an energy audit performed on your home. Having proper levels of wall insulation and especially roof insulation will help keep the sun out. As will using light colored exterior wall paints and shingles. For more information about audits, check out this Home Energy Audit page.
There are a lot of other great tricks to consider, like putting a bowl of ice in front of your fan to enhance your body's perception of the air temperature. For some additional tips and tricks, take a look at these articles.