Green Design - Keeping Your Home Cool

By Sarah Van Arsdale on July 14th, 2009

Fabulous design. Cutting edge looks. Interesting twists in color, fabric, and texture. These are all elements inherent in design that's ecologically sound. Yes, your creativity can have free reign even as you make choices that help protect the planet. Increasingly, manufacturers are creating products that have minimal impact on the environment, whether because they're made from organically-grown cotton or because they're made with renewable resources. We think environmentally friendly design is so important that we recently added a Green Design lesson to the NYIAD Complete Course in Interior Design.

In our "Decorating Green" column we'll look at a sustainable, low-impact element of design in each issue of "Designer Monthly." We hope these articles will help us all help the planet and the many creatures that share it with us.


Who doesn't like to look out a big picture window at a gorgeous view, especially when it's a view of sand and sea and sun? It's lovely to be sitting inside, in the cool of a living room, while outside roasts under the summer sun.

That is, if you have a way of keeping that summer sun from sizzling the indoors, too.

We all want to keep the cost of cooling our homes down, especially in the hottest summer months. And we all know that the higher you turn up the A/C, the faster the polar ice caps will melt. In one of the great ironies of climate change, it's our own insistence on cooling our homes that is making the planet a little hotter each day.

But we don't want to roast in the oven that used to be known as the living room, either.

So if you want to turn down (or even off — you can do this!) the A/C, let's start with the most basic way of cooling the house without any electricity at all. During the evening, when the temperature begins to drop, open the windows to the cooler night air. First thing in the morning, as soon as the sun starts to hit the windows, close them.

If you're home all day, you can open and close the windows in each room according to where the sun is; if you're out all day, you should just close them all before leaving for the day.

When you close the windows, close the drapes or curtains as well. Then, when you open the windows, open the drapes. Even if you can't invest in insulated shades right now, just closing regular shades or curtains will help to cut the heat.

ceiling fan

If you can invest a little in insulated drapes or shades, by all means do so. There are several on the market which can make a good dent in your cooling costs.

To take this one step further, try installing the new, tight, clear, clean-lined storm windows on any windows you won't need to open for the summer. These are made of a sturdy aluminum frame with two surfaces of clear glazing film, creating a pocket of air between them. Windotherm, makers of these insulation systems, say they can save you 55% on your annual heating bills in winter, so it makes sense that they'll also cut your cooling costs in summer.

Fanimation draco

Next, consider installing a ceiling fan, which can make a room's temperature feel ten degrees cooler, and can also make a room feel beautifully clean and old-fashioned. Nothing like a gently-whirring fan over head to make you think you're in Casablanca. The Energy Star Web site has lots of detailed information about choosing and installing ceiling fans.

And having a ceiling fan doesn't mean having a big eyesore that takes over the room. Today's fans come in every imaginable style, to suit the décor of any room. We especially like the modern look of the "Fanimation Draco."

But you can also find fans in antique, rustic and tropical styles. We found several we liked at Ceiling Fantasia.

So, before switching on the ol' air conditioner this summer, try some of these fresh, green ideas for cooling off first. And if they fail, go to an air conditioned movie for the afternoon!