Due to the infamous hot and humid summers that most parts of India experience, it’s only natural that most homeowners are always looking for tips on how to build cooler homes. If one is building a new house, then incorporating passive cooling architecture and design is an effective long-term strategy that can help to achieve this. However, one can also use simpler ideas and techniques to cool down rooms instantly during summer.
We present ideas and tips for a cooler home, covering architectural techniques, design ideas and practical solutions.
The global sustainability movement has affected Indian residential architecture too. More and more home owners are demanding the inclusion of features that help to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. Among the techniques that one can use to create a natural cooling system for houses is designing the orientation of the home to reduce the impact of the sun’s rays and to increase the wind flowing through the interiors. Additionally, providing the appropriate lighting and ventilation in different areas within the house can keep it cooler.
Of course, one can also employ ancient Indian passive cooling techniques for hot, humid climates such as evaporative cooling and shading as effective solutions for keeping the house cool during the summer. Besides this, the fenestration, roofs, curved or exposed structures and openings for ventilation are significant when one is looking for natural cooling techniques to include in the home’s architecture.
A common feature in many old houses, an indoor courtyard helps to create a pocket through which hot air can escape from the interiors on a warm summer day. Creating a waterbody and landscaping to provide shade to the rooms surrounding the courtyard contributes to cooling the house.
Shade for terraces, balconies and windows
Terraces and balconies tend to absorb heat as they are directly exposed to the sun’s rays. While installing a roof over them provides a permanent solution to beat the heat during the summer months, it brings with it the disadvantage of missing the warmth of the sun during winter. For a cooler home, a simple solution to this problem is to build a pergola that doesn’t completely block the sunlight. It reduces the heat and allows the wind to flow through.
Similarly, for windows in a room that gets direct sunlight, designing an external sunshade or overhang that blocks out the rays or reduces their intensity will solve the problem of the room getting too warm.
When considering passive house design for tropical climates, the landscaping in the garden plays a vital role. Besides planting shade trees to protect the windows in a west-facing room, growing creepers or vines on trellises over balconies and terraces are some of the landscaping design ideas to prevent the house from heating up excessively.
The type of materials used to construct the house also effects its insulation. In earlier times, traditional Indian houses came with thatched roofs that created air pockets to keep the interiors cooler. However, with modern architecture, where concrete often replaces thatched or tiled roofs, the heat absorption by the roof increases considerably. Terracotta and stabilized mud blocks, for the roof and the walls respectively, are the best building materials for hot climates.
Get more tips on how to choose building materials for your house.
While the solutions mentioned above can help, the effectiveness of each of them depends on the direction, location, elevation and the topography of the land surrounding the house. It’s advisable to consult a professional architect who can evaluate all the factors and design solutions that are ideal for the house.
Passive cooling architectural features are easy to incorporate at the planning stage of a new house. However, one can employ some simple and natural cooling techniques to existing homes as well.
The simplest solution to cooling a room is to allow air to flow into it from one side and blow away the warm air from the other side. For this technique to be effective, the room should have windows on opposite walls. In an existing house breaking down a section of the wall to install a window or a ventilation shutter can help to cross-ventilate and cool the rooms. Look at the house in its entirety to create a corridor through which wind can blow through for creating a cooler home.
It’s never too late to design the garden by planting the right type of shade trees or shrubs outside windows or over terraces and balconies to provide respite from the heat.
How to cool a room with fans
In India, ceiling fans have been in use for centuries. While they might not be as effective as air conditioners for cooling rooms, they don’t use as much energy and can even work on a standby invertor or generator during power blackouts in the summer months. If possible, reset the fans to rotate counterclockwise in the summer months to keep the rooms cooler. Additionally, fixing an exhaust fan in one of the windows or openings in the walls of a room will help to flush out the hot air from within quickly.
Find more solutions for cooling a hot bedroom.
Sunshades and awnings
Retractable sunshades or awnings are easy to install and are an excellent idea for west-facing rooms in the house as they will prevent sunlight from overheating the interiors.
Curtains and blinds
Just like sunshades, curtains and blinds help to block the sun’s rays, thereby protecting the room from heating up excessively. The stronger the sunlight, the heavier the drapes should be. Install blackout drapes in areas that get the most sunlight during the day so that it doesn’t get uncomfortably warm at night.
If an older home still functions on incandescent bulbs, replacing them with compact flourescent lamps (CFLs) will not only reduce the power bill but also contribute to a cooler home as the older type of bulbs emit a lot of heat. Additionally, installing regulator switches that help to control the intensity of the lighting will help to keep the indoor temperature lower than before.
Even after living in a house for many years, it takes a trained eye to detect the direction of the sunlight, the flow of wind and other architectural details that help to make a tropical home cooler. That’s why we recommend contacting a professional, whether it’s an interior architect to help with creating internal windows for crossventilation or a landscape architect for designing elements in the garden that help to maximise the wind flowing into the house or to shade the sunlight from the interiors. Not every improvement for a cooler home needs to be unaffordable. After understanding the requirements and the budget, the professional will initially present ideas of the various elements that can improve the existing conditions. After discussions, and depending on the budget, one can choose a few of the solutions to keep the home a lot cooler during the summer months without having to depend on air-conditioning.