Economic Cooling Solutions for Small Spaces

money houseWith energy costs so high, it makes sense to start looking for more economical approaches to cooling. For dwellers of small spaces (about 250 sq ft - 925 sq ft) this can be especially challenging.

Many smaller home - apartments, studios, older "cottage" homes - lack central air conditioning all together. But even when central AC is present, both energy and dollars are wasted by over-cooling a small space with a too-powerful system.

The best option for small spaces dwellers is to invest in a portable cooling unit. When building restrictions prohibit the installation of central or even window air conditioners, a portable AC can keep your small space cool and comfortable even in the hottest weather. And, compared to traditional systems, small cooling units operate at a fraction of the cost.

But even with portable cooling units, there are additional steps you can take to reduce in-home heat and further reduce your energy consumption.

Passive Cooling Techniques

First you should know that there are two types of cooling: passive cooling and active cooling. Active cooling is direct cooling, such as use of a portable, window, or central AC unit, including evaporative coolers. Passive cooling is what we'll discuss here, which are indirect ways of cooling your home.

Interior Window Shading

As much as half the heat in your house can come from unshaded windows. The sunny day heat gain from a hundred square feet of eastern or western facing windows is equivalent to running your heater for several hours.

  • windowblindDIY Rollup Shades
    These shades are some of the easiest types around and great for DIY cooling projects. The materials are relatively inexpensive, easy to get, and easy to make. It takes next to no time to make a great patio, porch, or window covering. Some people even use a darker role up shade behind decorative curtains, in order to keep out morning sun or keep rooms cooler during hot summertime weather.
  • Drapes and Blinds
    Most of us have some sort of decorative window coverings that also serve to block the view into our homes. But drapes and blinds also serve as effective heat-blockers when kept closed against direct light. Two-layered drapes are the most effective, and the closer to the wall they are the more heat they will keep out. With blinds, make sure the more reflective side is turned outward.

Exterior Window Shading

  • Awnings
    Overhangs can be built above the window to block heat from penetrating into your home. Likewise, retractable awnings can be constructed yourself for economic cooling, and provide the flexibility of allowing more light into your home in the winter, when you want it.
  • Trellises
    A plant trellis also makes for a great natural way to provide shading and cooling. Trellises can be built-in, or movable, folding screens that you place in front of a window during the hot season. Bougainvillea, wisteria and morning glories are visually appealing and inexpensive plants that naturally grow to cover larger spaces, but check with your local plant nursery for good options in your region.
  • Landscaping
    For a long term solution, plant trees and large shrubs around windows to provide natural shade and cooling. According to the US Department of Energy, well-placed trees can save up to 25% on household heating and cooling expenses annually.
  • Solar Screens
    These shades mount in vinyl frames and are made of a special material that block up to 90% of sunlight. They usually work on a wide variety of windows, particularly ones that would have difficulty with other types of window shades. This is an easy DIY cooling project, relatively quick and cheap to complete.
  • Patio Shading
    You can indirectly reduce the heat entering your home by providing cooling to your patio or deck. Shading structures like overhead trellises or DIY cloth pergolas and shade sails are easy to install and flexible enough to accommodate any outdoor configuration.
  • Living Walls and Vertical Gardens
    A living wall system is a panel of plants that when fully grown has the appearance of a wall. They can be created out of flowers, different plants or even hedge like structures. The greenery not only increases oxygen levels, but the wall also adds an aesthetic appeal and additional shading and cooling from the sun's heat.

Reducing Interior Heat Sources

Besides limiting the heat entering your home from the outside, on hot days you should try and reduce the amount of heat you create inside your home. Here are just a few quick and easy suggestions - you can probably think of many more economic cooling solutions yourself.

  • cfl-light-bulbLight bulbs
    Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs, which not only use less energy, but put out far less heat. Whatever kind of bulbs you are using, turn them off when not in use.
  • Air dry clothes and dishes
    If you've ever opened your dishwasher during the dry cycle, then you know how much heat it can produce. The same goes for your clothes dryer. Avoid these heat sources by hanging clothes up to dry and letting dishes air dry.
  • Turn off TVs and computers
    When not in use, of course.
  • Avoid the stove and oven
    Cook with electric appliances like a microwave or pressure cooker that won't increase the temperature in your kitchen. Better yet, cook outdoors on the grill - it's both fun and economical.

Active Cooling

No matter what you do to reduce heat in your home, when the outdoor temperatures get hot it requires active effort to keep cool.

  • Fans
    While fans don't actually cool the air, they can make you feel cooler by dissipating pockets of hot air around the room, especially those created by your own body so it can more effectively cool itself. They're also great for creating air circulation, especially after sunset when you want to pull cooler nighttime air into your house, and expel the day's trapped heat.
  • Misting fans
    While not an ideal indoor cooling solution, the fine spray these fans emit can cool door patios and decks, so that you feel more comfortable outdoors.
  • Humidifiers and dehumidifiers
    While cooling is not the primary function of these appliances, they can provide some relief in extreme heat. Humidifiers can add moisture to the air in hot, dry climates so that you feel more comfortable. Dehumidifiers remove moisture when the air is humid, so you will feel less sticky and sweaty, and your body will be able to cool itself better.
  • Small Cooling Units
    Both portable air conditioners and portable swamp coolers can provide a welcome blast of cooling relief. Swamp coolers work best in dry climates, where the moisture evaporates quickly to create a cooling effect. While portable air conditioners are more costly, they will work everywhere, providing the familiar comfort of cold, conditioned air.

Click here to view our selection of portable air conditioners to find your perfect economic cooling solution. We offer free shipping on hundreds of in-stock items.

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The Green Guide to Portable Air Conditioning
Portable Air Conditioners vs. Swamp Coolers: Which Should You Choose?