The most efficient heating and cooling setting in your home is ‘OFF.’ Using natural ventilation is a cost-saving and healthier alternative to using your home air conditioner in the summer. If you keep an eye on the forecast, you can plan for opportunities to turn off the air and open your windows. Here is how I practice natural ventilation in my home to reduce home energy costs:
You need at the bare minimum:
- windows that can be regularly opened and closed, and
- access to a weather forecast — preferably hourly forecasting like those that can be found in phone and computer applications like AccuWeather. It is also helpful to have a thermometer that shows the indoor temperature (many digital thermostats have these), a window fan.
It is also helpful to have:
- a thermometer that shows the indoor temperature (many digital thermostats have these) and,
- a window fan
Night ventilation is a tried and true method for reducing cooling costs. Open your windows before bed to cool down your space and close them in the morning when the temperature begins to rise. When the forecast is in your favor, you can go days in comfort without turning on the AC. This method is best when night temperatures dip below 70 and daytime temperatures don’t exceed the high 80’s.
Comfort for my household is usually 78 degrees or less in the summer. Once the evening temperature drops below 78 degrees, I open all the windows. We close the 1st floor windows before bed for safety reasons but leave the 2nd floor windows open throughout the night. I put a fan in the window to pull in more cool air. In the early morning, I open every window and turn my fans on high, to get as much of the cool morning air inside as possible. Once the temperature begins to rise, I turn off the fans, and shut the windows and blinds – this keeps the cool air in and prevents sunlight from increasing the internal temperature of the house.
I have an indoor thermometer and an indoor-outdoor thermometer in my home. You do not need these, to make use of this natural ventilation method. I use them because they help me gauge the optimum time for opening and closing my windows. Some days it stays cool till 9 am, others, I have to close up the house at 7 am. When things align, I can keep my AC off for days, even weeks in the summer.
Living in my home using natural ventilation has significantly reduced my home energy consumption and connects me with the environment outside my windows. Open windows mean I can hear frogs and cicadas at night and birds in the morning. I feel connected to the changing winds, weather, and seasons. I believe mechanical systems built for our comfort have shut us from connecting with nature. Re-establishing this connection has shifted my focus. I feel more connected to my neighborhood and my garden. In fact, I would wager that this connection has improved my gardening skills.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast. On cool nights, open your windows before bed to cool down your space and close them in the morning when the temperature begins to rise.