After a cold, dark, winter, most of us welcome the first warm days of spring with open arms. We happily open our windows and joyously shed those layers of extra clothes we’ve been wearing for months. But then, as summer comes in, and the temperature and humidity builds, the excitement wears off. We retreat to the coolest places we can find, moving from one air-conditioned environment to the next. Unfortunately, this comes with a cost, especially at home: air-conditioning is both expensive and increases our environmental footprint.

While many consider the impact of air-conditioning on the environment and our utility bills an inevitable element of summer, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can limit our reliance on air-conditioning by making smart changes to our daily summer habits, as well as how we design homes. Here are some examples.

Don’t let the heat build up in your home

You are lucky if you live in neighbourhoods with mature trees, because their leafy canopy shades your home during the warmer months. Other ways to shade your home include installing awnings or drawing the blinds or drapes during daylight hours. Limited use of appliances that generate heat like stoves and ovens also helps, use the BBQ and feast on salads and ice cream — it’s summer after all! If you are renovating or rebuilding your home, you have a great opportunity to incorporate specific materials and design techniques to help lower the energy required to heat and cool your home.

You can do much more with a rebuild than a renovation, because you aren’t limited by the existing structure. For example: you can start with an efficient building envelope or simply strategic window placement.

Use the cooler areas of your home more

While you cannot stop your home from becoming warmer during the summer, some areas of your home will stay cooler. The upper floors tend to be the hottest, because hot air rises and your roof’s exposure to the sun transfers heat to nearby indoor air. You could plan to spend more time on the lower levels. A finished basement is an ideal spot. Insulated by the soil, it naturally stays much cooler than other floors in your home, without the need for air-conditioning. If you are rebuilding, this is a great reason to include a livable basement as part of your design.

Keep your body cool

Beyond cooling the house, take measures to prevent your body from overheating, like wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothes and drinking lots of water. Take advantage of public pools — in Toronto leisure swim is usually free. At home, relax with your feet in a bucket of water, or cool off with a quick shower before going to bed. As an adult , this time of year is a ready-made rationale for indulging in a popsicle or freezie.  Release your inner child!

Summer is a great time of year

There are many ways to strategically beat the heat. If you are creative, you can do it in ways that are less expensive and more environmentally sustainable than keeping the AC cranked all season.

If you are renovating or rebuilding, be sure to ask about design techniques and materials that can lower a home’s overall requirements for heating and cooling. It’s worth it. You will save money on your utility bills, experience greater comfort and live more sustainably.

Rebuilding provides an especially great opportunity to make this happen. We can help you take advantage of it.