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Passive Cooling

Passive Cooling

No matter where you live in Australia at some point in the year you’re going to require some type of cooling.  Don’t reach for your cooling appliances just yet let Save Energy Save Money, take you through some passive cooling techniques.

What is passive cooling?  Passive cooling is the best way to cool your home and keep your carbon foot print in check, not only is it the cheapest form of cooling it has the lowest environmental impact to boot!  In order for passive cooling to be effective it needs to cool not only the home you’re in but the people who dwell in the home as well.

Passive cooling has different techniques that are used to cool your home naturally, these can be adapted to ensure they meet the needs of those no matter which state you live in.  The most popular passive cooling techniques include:  Ventilation, shading insulation and orientation of your home.

Please keep in mind that while summer cooling is important you will also require some sort of heating in winter and as such the balance between summer cooling and winter heating needs to be balanced out, except for those living in the tropics where it is warm all year long!  Those who don’t require winter heating are subject to a different set of rules when it comes to passive cooling.

Let’s explore how to cool your building:

Cooling Your Bricks & Mortar

Your main aim here is to reduce heat gain to the building from the sun’s rays, this can be done is may different ways.

Shading your windows, this will stop the suns rays from heating your windows and that heat transferring into your home, dress your windows appropriately and close curtains on north and west facing windows, this will prevent the heat entering and reduce the temperature of the room by up to 5 degrees.

Plant trees or shrubs around your home to shade it from the heat of the mid-day sun, this is where you need to be careful and ensure that you plant deciduous trees or ones that can be trimmed in winter to let the winter sun into your home to heat it naturally.

Use a light coloured or reflective paint on your roof and walls to reflect the heat, stopping it from entering your walls and through your celling.

Maximize the Breeze

Air movement through your home is very important, this not only cools your walls it also cools you.  Given the unpredictable Australian weather we can’t always rely on a beautiful southerly breeze to cool us down, this is where we enlist the services of fan’s positioned strategically through out your home to give the air movement a boost.  Fans are relatively cheap to buy and cost very little to run, you can check out their annual running cost here if you’re concerned.

If you’re designing your home and want to maximise cool breezes they travel best in narrow or open plan layout such as the below:



Picture from  http://www.yourhome.gov.au/passive-design/passive-cooling

Opening your home up in the evening allows the cool night air to travel through your home cooling your walls and the people inside.  Ensure you trap this cool air in and close the doors and windows when it starts to heat up.

Evaporative cooling

When water evaporates, it attracts a lot of heat from the surrounding air.  Evaporation is therefore an effective passive cooling technique.  When adding a water feature, pond or pool ensure this is situated outside windows where the water will pre cool the air before it blows it through your home, this would be an ideal window to position a fan in order to give the cool air traveling through a boost. 


Solar Chimney

solar chimney – often referred to as a thermalchimney – is a way of improving the natural ventilation of buildings by using convection of air heated by passive solar energy.



Picture from  http://www.yourhome.gov.au/passive-design/passive-cooling

Roof Vents

Roof vents are cheap to install and allow the heat that would normally hang around in your attic then travel back through your house to escape, they are great in winter as they don’t keep your home warm but allow any trapped moisture to escape for those houses susceptible to mold.



Insulation is essential in roofs and floors to maximise passive cooling, not all homes can be raised like traditional Queenslander properties who benefit from natural ventilation from underneath.

Different insulation will be required depending on where you stay, those with higher humidity will require a different type of insulation to those who live in dryer climates.  You can find out which types are suitable for you home by visiting your local hardware store or even call in the professionals for a quote and pick their brains to get the information you need.   Always ensure you get a few quotes from different companies to ensure you can negotiate the best rate.  If you do end up doing it yourself make sure you do your research and do it right or it could be an expensive lesson to have to get it re done!

Insulation is great for summer and winter as it helps keep you cool in summer and stops the warm air escaping in winter.

Hybrid Cooling Systems

Hybrid cooling systems are whole house cooling solutions that employ a variety of cooling options (including air conditioning) in the most efficient and effective way. They take maximum advantage of passive cooling when available and make efficient use of mechanical cooling systems during extreme periods.

Air Conditioners

Air Conditioners are effective ways to cool your home, however there is a large out lay to buy them and get them installed not to mention the annual running cost.  Using an air conditioner to cool your home will negate a lot of your passive cooling techniques as you need to close all the door and windows to have it operating effectively.

Not to mention the higher environmental impact buying and installing a A/C unit in your home will have.  Its great as a backup but should be used as a last resort.  Check out the SESM website for details on their annual running cost.

Good Energy Habits

Good energy habits will also help reduce the heat trapped in your home, ensure you switch out all your bulbs to LED’s they produce less heat and cost a fraction to run you can find out more about your lighting energy cost here.  Turn everything off when not in use and ensure you only have appliances plugged in that your need.

If that 2nd fridge is just sitting empty most of the year unplug it and save on your heating bills.  Think about cooking and use the oven sparingly during heat waves better still cook on the BBQ and take that heat outside.

Do you have any passive cooling tips you would like to share with us then get in touch we would love to hear what works for you!




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