Air conditioning is a pretty modern convenience. There are still lots of countries where A/C is a luxury found only in hotels, restaurants, and the homes of the rich. Little beats retreating to a lake, basement or cellar for the afternoon, but we can look at them and back in history to the 1950s and earlier to figure out how we can make our lives a little bit more comfortable when we have outages or grid-down situations. There are a ton of ways we can help cool our bodies and little changes to activity and habits that can be incorporated for beating the heat in our homes, too, but for this article, I’m going to concentrate on the dwelling space itself.
The more of our buildings that we can ring with shade of some kind, the cooler the building will stay. Even so, just shading the entrances and windows of homes, cellars, and workshops can help reduce the heat inside. Shading entrances is especially good in air-conditioned or cooled spaces. It helps reduce the sudden inversion that happens when the doors open. That can be huge for a cellar being filled with harvest.
There are three ways we can generate shade around our homes: window awnings, porches, and trees.
Shading with window awnings helps reduce the amount of sunlight that enters the home. Old-style window awnings are deep. They’re designed to protect starting fairly early in the morning, all the way through midday into afternoon.
However, they were typically placed so they don’t actually cover much of the window. That protects from the brutal summer sun when it’s taking a high arc, while allowing for natural light early in the morning and late in the evening as the sun is setting, and for more natural light during winter when the sun’s path is at a lower angle.
Covered porches have the same effect – creating a buffer around doors if not the whole side or house. The deeper the porch, the less light will get through. There are programs available online that can help people at various latitudes figure out exactly what depth is most ideal by the compass directions, but generally 6-8’ will reduce summertime heat while still allowing for decent winter light to enter.
Deciduous trees are ideal for the southern face of a building and are regularly used on the east and west sides as well. They shade in the summer and then allow light to pass through their empty limbs in winter.