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Sail Away to a Shady Summer
Eco-friendly climate control for the warm weather months
It’s summertime, and the living is steamy.
Cranking the air conditioning to “arctic” is one way to cool off, but that can be hard on the planet — and the pocketbook.
Luckily, maintaining a comfortable climate indoors and out is often just a matter of creating shade in your home and garden. Here are a number of ways to make summer living easy, breezy and cool.
Turn the Temps Inside Out
First, start from the outside and work in. Stopping the sun’s heat before it penetrates your home is seven times more effective than using interior blinds or curtains.
Trees are a great natural sunblock. Unfortunately, perfectly positioned maples are hard to come by! Consider a fast-climbing Paulownia, which can reach heights of 30' in only three years.
Don’t have a green thumb? Exterior shade solutions — such Coolaroo Window Shades — provide faster and more feasible options. The all-weather knit fabric blocks up to 90 percent of the sun's UV rays, allows light and air to pass through, and resists mold, mildew and rot.
On a porch or veranda, these Roman Sun Shades offer privacy and protection while still giving you an unobstructed view. Use them to create an outdoor room for entertaining or simply lounging with your family.
In the patio and garden, consider Coolaroo Sail Shades. Festive and colorful, they add architectural interest while working to keep temperatures lower inside and out. Sails also ﬁlter the light to provide protection for plantings, while allowing rain and cool breezes to penetrate. Resistant to fading and mildew, the special polymer fabric comes with a 10-year warranty.
No doubt, square sails are the simplest to install. But you should also consider triangles, which require only three attachment points, offer less wind resistance (crucial to keep things from sailing away!), and can be layered and overlapped in varying heights and colors.
Regardless of your sail choice, proper installation is the key to successful shading. Be sure the structures that will support the sail shade (e.g., roof fascia, fence post or pergola) are sound. Sails can be attached to large trees, but this is not recommended for permanent installation. Minimum height should be about 8 feet, so don’t forget to check for overhead wires!
Before beginning, be sure to check local regulations and homeowners’ association covenants on installing exterior structures. While picking the right size and conﬁguration isn’t rocket science, it does require a little basic astronomy to understand the path of the sun across your property, in order to determine the best place for installation. Google’s SketchUp is free, and can be used to create a 3-D model that provides detail for a comprehensive shadow study. Christopher Gronbeck of Seattle’s Sustainable by Design offers a number of helpful tools, and will also do a custom consultation for your particular site.
If there’s no way to install outdoor solar protection, all is not lost. UV-blocking interior shades and insulated curtains can also offer signiﬁcant cooling opportunities, conserving energy and reducing up to 50 percent of light. As another bonus, insulated window treatments protect fabric upholstery and wood ﬂoors from the sun’s fading rays.
Beyond Shade: More Tips for Staying Cool
In the height of summer, though, even the shadiest of spots can be uncomfortably warm. Once you’ve taken advantage of passive solar protection, other techniques can help beat the heat.
One tropical favorite is the chilled, scented cloth that’s offered to guests for freshening. Dampen a number of small washcloths in essential oil–scented water (try lemongrass or jasmine). Stored in a sealed bag in your refrigerator, they’re a pleasant and instant antidote to sticky days.
In an already shaded spot or in the evenings, a magnetic bug screen can let in a cool breeze while keeping mosquitoes at bay.
No breeze? Ceiling fans, evaporative coolers and portable air conditioners lower the temperature without sending your utility bills sky-high.
Finally, while blocking the heat of the sun is desirable, don’t forget to take advantage of it as well. On laundry day, an umbrella clothes dryer uses the very heat we’re trying to avoid, while infusing clothes with the crisp scent of summer. Sun-powered battery chargers keep electronics humming happily, while solar lanterns add romantic atmosphere to sultry evenings.
So make the best of it, and enjoy the summer!