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Before the invention of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, people needed to find more creative ways to keep their buildings comfortable for occupants. This meant that building location and property features were more consciously planned. These techniques have been used less rigorously in recent decades, but are still efficient strategies for naturally heating and cooling buildings.
Working with Trees and Shade
FREE! Use sun exposure and shade to heat and cool your building.
$ Grow vines up a trellis against the hottest wall to create a barrier of cool air at least 6″ from your building.
$-$$ Plant deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the winter) to provide shade in the summer while still allowing sunlight to warm your home in the cooler months.
$$-$$$ Use awnings, shutters, and sunshades on the exterior of your building to shade windows and doors from the high summer sun.
$$ Inside the building, use draperies and shades to reduce heat gain. In the winter, keep draperies and shades open to let the low winter sun penetrate.
Programs like TreeBaltimore help you plant trees on your property by providing resources, guidance, and assistance with tree plantings.
A building’s roof can get particularly hot, especially if it’s a traditional black roof. Makes your home’s air conditioning work overtime. You can lower your energy consumption by reducing the heat generated by your roof using one of two methods: a green roof or a cool roof.
In a recent Baltimore Sun article, freelance journalist and researcher Joan Jacobson explained, “longer lasting, cost-competitive and often safer to install than traditional black roofs, cool roofs could become Baltimore’s next climate mitigation priority and environmental target.”
You may have heard of green roofs before. In Baltimore, the Convention Center, Mercy Hospital, and the National Aquarium are just a few of many big-name property owners to install green roofs on their buildings.
Green roofs are ideal for urban buildings with flat or shallow-pit roofs, which is perfect for the Baltimore rowhome. Green roofs can include anything from basic plant cover to a garden. Using this type of roof can lower the need for heating and cooling, and can reduce the urban heat island effect. Other primary benefits include managing storm water and enjoying a rooftop open space. Green roofs also provide insulation. This roof type can be much more expensive to implement than other efficient roof options, so you should carefully assess your property and consult a professional before deciding to install a green roof.
A cool roof uses material that is designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof. Cool roofs can be made of a highly reflective type of paint, a sheet covering, or highly reflective tiles or shingles.
By installing a cool roof, you can lower the temperature of your roof by up to 50°F and save energy and money by using less air conditioning. Cool roofs make spaces like garages or covered patios more comfortable.
As cool roofs become more popular, communities will benefit from fewer power plant emissions and less demand for new power plants due to reduced energy consumption. Furthermore, cool roofs can lower outside air temperatures, reducing heat islands in urban areas.
Nearly any type of home can benefit from a cool roof, but consider climate and other factors before you decide to install one.
To top it off, you might consider adding solar panels or a rooftop garden!
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More Great Resources:
- Wheeler, T. (2013, October 15). Push urged for more cool roofs in Baltimore. Baltimore Sun.
- Learn more about cool roofs from Energy.gov
- Energy.gov’s Tips for Energy efficient roofs.