Best Practical Home Design and Cooling Ideas

It’s summer and it’s scorching hot outside and inside my rented house! It’s an irony that modern Philippine house designs aren’t suited for the tropical climate. They look good outside, but inside it’s a heat trap. To remedy this, some homeowners install air conditioners. But this is not a practical solution to many as electricity cost is prohibitive. Plus there are the frequent brownouts. This dilemma made me think about practical but efficient home cooling ideas.

It is important to build a house that uses passive cooling systems at the onset. Below are some concepts from my research, plus my own ideas. To help me layout and design my dream house, I use HomeByMe or HomeStyler. Easy to use web apps, no need to an architect or engineer.

The roof is exposed to sunlight and absorbs heat more than any other part of the house. A green roof is a mat of greenery that absorbs solar energy, acting as a natural insulator.

Before installing a green roof, strengthen the roof structure. To make sure, it will not collapse due to the extra weight of plants, soil, and water.

Use reinforced foam concrete. Aside from being lightweight, it has a high R-value. R-value measures a material’s resistance to the flow of heat. The higher the value, the better it insulates per inch of thickness.

A rust proof steel deck supports the concrete. For stability during earthquakes, the columns bearing the deck have crossbars. Coat concrete with long-lasting elastomeric paint or tar for waterproofing.

The roof although flat has a gentle slope on one end with drainage. The low end should be in front of the house, so it highlights and advertise the green roof for others to emulate.

A green roof consists of several layers. Vital is the barrier between the plants and roof itself. Plant roots are so powerful that they can even crack open concrete roads. So, the first layer is the root barrier. It prevents the roots and water from penetrating the roof.

A thin layer of gravel and sand on top of the barrier facilitates drainage. It prevents “drowning” of plants during the rainy season.

Add rice husks and wood pulp to prevent top soil erosion and lock moisture in. Next, is compose for plant nutrients. Then top soil and finally the plants themselves. Carabao grass and short shrubs with small and shallow roots are best. Choose plants that are pest and drought resistant. This is what I have in mind, but growing trees is also possible.

Install solar panels on top of the green roof. Distribute it in a way that it doesn’t cover the plants. The roof deck extends out from the wall. The extension act as a wide eaves that shades the wall. Waterproof the intersection of the roof and wall, so rain water doesn’t seep in. Use hanging plants on the edge of the green roof to emulate a “green” curtain.

There is a gap between the roof and ceiling. The gap prevents direct heat transfer from the roof down to the living areas. Polycarbonate panel is a perfect ceiling material. Use aluminum frames to support the ceiling. Aside from being durable and lightweight, polycarbonate also has a high R-value. There is ample distance between ceiling and floor, so hot air separates at the top. The ceiling has ventilation near light bulbs. Or on top of heat generating appliances like TV and ref. The wall in the ceiling also has ventilation to allow heat to escape outside.

The wall is made of foam concrete, if not use an insulating mortar.

Light color reflects heat. Use white lime paint on the exterior wall and light colored paint in interior walls. Select white polycarbonate panels for the ceiling.

Louvre window is perfect as it lets in the most air. Cheap clear/frosted polycarbonate panels serve as window blades. Window height extends up to the ceiling. Hot air by nature rises up, while cool air sinks down. The window has an upper and lower part. Opening the upper part allows hot air and humidity to escape. As it escapes, it pulls in cool air from the outside, cooling the house in the process.

Use thin and light colored curtains. Place curtain in a way that it doesn’t block the upper part of the window.

Place windows near areas of high humidity like sink and preparation table in the kitchen. Also, near heat sources like TV and cooked food in the living room and dining table.

Use doors with ventilation at the bottom for master bedroom and comfort room. The rest of the bedrooms don’t have doors but thin and light colored curtains only.

Seal the doors and windows to prevent cool indoor air from escaping and outside hot air from coming in. Seal door and window sides with brush seal strip. If there is a big gap between door and floor, add bottom door sweep. Apply hot melt glue stick along the window frame’s edge with a glue gun. Buy hot melt glue stick, glue gun, brush seal strip and door sweep.

Separate the comfort room and kitchen from the living room. Comfort room is a source of humidity. The kitchen generates both heat and humidity from cooking. Use a transparent polycarbonate swinging door. The door covers the top but the bottom is open.

Build a fountain or fish pond just outside the living room. Plant a tree beside so a large part of the fountain or pond is under the shade. The fountain’s water evaporation cools the surrounding air. If you open the windows or door, the house will take in the cool air. Choose a waterfall type fountain that is quiet. Add bottle tower garden on both sides to absorb any extra humidity and produce oxygen. Turn this on during summer only.

Place indoor plants in bedrooms, comfort room, dining room and kitchen. Plants absorb harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and many others. Hang plants near windows. Here’s a list of 20 best plants for cleaning indoor air., the natural way. No need to buy a monthly pack of air fresheners or spend on expensive purifiers.

Install wall fans in bedrooms, living room and dining room. Place it in a way that the air flows at the back. Use an exhaust fan in the cooking area to drive out heat, smoke, and humidity from cooking.

Use low wattage but high lumen LED light bulbs. Buy the recessed ceiling type, so the heat doesn’t transfer down to the living areas. Determine the most efficient number of bulbs and their distribution. Incorporate motion and light sensing night lights inside and outside the house. Add glow in the dark decals on living room wall and ceiling.

Low energy consumption means low heat generation. Buy low wattage appliances and equipment. Limit appliances to TV, audio system, media player and computer only in the living room to reduce heat. Refrigerator and washing machine are in the kitchen. Group microwave, toasters, electric pot, rice cookers, and burner together near the window.

Make it a habit of switching off lights and turning off appliances when not in use. Turn on the exhaust fan in the kitchen only when cooking. Open windows and doors at night to let in cool air and close it during daytime to prevent hot air coming in. Plant veggies and trees.

Wear light colored and thin cotton clothing. When staying home, choose shorts over pants. “Sando” over polo shirts and v-neck over turtleneck t-shirts.

Buy sofa made of native materials like bamboo and “rattan” or “uway”. These materials are cool to the skin, unlike leather. Use bamboo fiber or cotton bed sheets, they have good wicking properties. Place a waterproof sheet over the bed foam, to prevent perspiration and other body liquids from spoiling it.

Building green roof with wide eaves insulate the house from outside heat. Correct ventilation design and placement allows natural air flow within the house. Plants provide shade and fresh air. Using and grouping energy efficient appliances reduce interior heat production. Most important, develop “cool” habits.

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