Beyond Air Conditioning: Multiple Solutions to Beat the Heat

Beyond Air Conditioning: Multiple Solutions to Beat the Heat

Whether it’s a passive solar design, a white roof or new insulation materials, builders are finding new ways to manage extreme heat without overloading the grid.

While homeowners and builders in hot spots in Texas, Arizona, and Florida are accustomed to designing homes to address extreme heat, the sad fact is that builders everywhere now need to follow their lead. 2023 was officially the hottest year on record—ask anyone from Maine to Miami or from Seattle to San Diego and they’ll agree with the recordkeepers. 

Beat the Heat Ebook

For every generation, extreme temperatures are the most commonly experienced climate impacts, followed by tornadoes, according to Green Builder Media’s COGNITION Smart Data surveys.

Most Impactful Climate Event by Generation

Source: COGNITION Smart Data

Builders today, particularly in areas threatened by hurricanes or wildfires, know they need to build climate-conscious properties to protect people. They can also take steps to reduce the pressure of residential power use on the grid and increase the resilience of homeowners to long stretches of extreme heat. 

While some remedies depend on new technology, others go back to ancient building techniques that helped people survive harsh conditions long before the protections of electricity and air conditioning were in place. 

Beat the Heat Some solutions to combat high heat include:

  • Designing a site-specific passive solar home to take advantage of the topography and wind patterns for natural cooling.
  • Architecture that matches the climate, such as elevated homes with plenty of ventilation in the tropics or low buildings created with earthen walls for thermal protection in a desert climate.
  • Orienting a house with windows on the north and south sides for natural light without solar heat gain.
  • Shading with architectural features such as awnings or roof overhangs on the western and southern sides of a building. 
  • Landscaping for shade, for protection from wildfires and to cool air between paved streets and exterior doors.
  • Sealing and insulating to keep hot air outside with a variety of products such as continuous rigid insulation and foam insulation, plus building with insulating concrete forms (ICFs) or structural insulated panels (SIPS) that provide tighter buildings which reduce heat gain and keep conditioned air inside. 
  • Ventilation systems that provide better indoor air quality without introducing hot air inside.
  • Radiant barrier systems in an attic that prevent heat gain from the roof.
  • A white or reflective roof to avoid solar heat gain into the interior of the house.
  • Solar panels and storage to manage energy use and provide power during brownouts and outages.
  • High performance windows and doors to reduce heat gain, loss of air conditioned air and for additional insulation.
  • Demand side energy management systems to monitor energy use, reduce use at peak times and save money. 

For more details about these innovative solutions to extreme temperatures, download the Beat the Heat eBook.