Keeping our buildings cool during Europe’s increasing exposure to extreme heat can be energy-intensive and expensive. The ways you can ensure efficient, effective space cooling depends on whether you are…

What can I do?

Get rid of the AC!

Traditional air conditioning units account for 99% of the space cooling market in the EU, but they are not the best available option.

There are a wide range of strategies you can use to ensure your home stays cool. These include:

Active systems

Active systems use energy to provide space cooling.
Many technologies are more efficient than ACs and can be powered by renewable sources.
They include:

  • Active shading systems
  • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR)
  • Automation and control systems

Passive systems

Passive systems exploit design choices rather than consuming energy to provide cooling.
Some examples are:

  • Natural ventilation
  • Window shades and blinds
  • Building insulation
  • Window retrofit
  • Nature-based solutions like green roofs and walls, increased green areas in urban spaces,
    water flows, and district cooling systems.

Lifestyle changes

Even without investing in cooling technologies, there are plenty of ways that you can adapt your lifestyle and habits to better cope with the heat.

Close doors, windows, curtains, blinds and shutters during the day. This will prevent hot air from entering your home, helping to keep the indoor air cooler and reducing the need for space cooling technologies.

Keep your appliances off. Avoid using appliances that generate lots of heat as a by-product, such as the oven or stove, during the hottest parts of the day.

Try to spend time in the coolest room of your home, and avoid running fans, air conditioners or other technologies in areas of the building that are not being used.

Aim to open windows and circulate cooler air through the building during the coldest times of the day – normally at night and early in the morning.

Install solar control films to reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter, improving energy efficiency.

Place heat reflective foils behind your radiators in winter to prevent heat from being absorbed into the walls. In summer, use them to reflect the sun’s heat away from the indoors.

Plant some climbing plants like ivi, wisteria, and knotweed on your exterior walls to cool down you home by as much as 7c in the summer. They improve air quality by reducing the need for mechanical ventilation, and by filtering pollutants and allergens in the air.

I feel cooler when I’m running a fan, but did you know that it doesn’t actually cool the air in your home?

The airflow from a fan makes sweat evaporate faster from your skin and displaces the warm air that your body generates, giving the illusion that your environment is cooler. Good ventilation is key to keeping cool!

What can public authorities do?

There are many interventions that can be put in place at the level of local and regional governments.

Control strategies: City governments have the authority to make large-scale decisions and plans for urban plans and infrastructure. These decisions can include zoning statutes, heat-resilient architecture planning like the consideration of polyurethane foam and expanded polystyrene as standard building materials, and mandates for green roofs, living walls, and other nature-based solutions in urban areas.

Combination strategies: Cities can work together with state regulators to ensure energy efficiency in the construction of new buildings or the retrofit of city-owned or leased buildings as a way to lead by example.

Facilitative strategies: Local governments can raise citizens’ awareness of heat-related issues and promote positive changes, build capacities, and campaign for funding instruments so that citizens can afford upgraded space cooling solutions.

Why should we move away from traditional air conditioning units?

For the planet: AC units are known to use a significant amount of energy and contribute to carbon emissions, which can have harmful effects on the environment. Adopting energy-efficient alternatives can help reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.

For your savings: Traditional AC units are not always the most efficient way to cool buildings. More updated technologies or passive solutions can provide the same level of cooling while using less energy. By cooling your home more efficiently, you can reduce your overall energy consumption and save money on energy bills.

For your health: The vapour compression technology used in most AC units can circulate air pollutants and allergens, which can be harmful to people’s health, particularly those with respiratory conditions.

For noise pollution: The noise generated by outdated or inefficient space cooling systems can be a nuisance for people living or working near them. Updated or passive systems can cool your home without adding to the noise levels of your environment.

Passive and nature-based solutions offer a great alternative, or simply accompaniment, to air conditioning while saving energy and costs.

What are the benefits of nature-based solutions?

  • For the planet: Nature-based cooling solutions can help mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing energy consumption and the carbon emissions associated with traditional air conditioning systems. In addition, plants are natural carbon sinks!
  • For your savings: A green roof can reduce cooling needs by up to 75%, resulting in lower energy bills. Reducing the need for technological solutions also reduces the likelihood of maintenance costs cropping up.
  • For your health: Nature-based solutions can improve air quality by reducing the need for mechanical ventilation and by filtering pollutants and allergens, leading to a healthier and more comfortable indoor environment.
  • For noise pollution: Plants and soil can absorb sound, creating a more peaceful environment.
  • Extra points: Aesthetics and biodiversity! Adding greenery to the urban landscape improves the aesthetic value and supports biodiversity by providing habitats for plants and animals.

Did you know? If I install a green roof or another nature-based solution in my home, I can reduce my need for air conditioning by 40-60%!


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