We're all trying to live greener lives, but some steps, like giving up air conditioning, can seem daunting. If you break a sweat just thinking about turning off your AC, take heart: We've found some surprisingly simple all–natural methods to cool your home. You can remove heat buildup in your home and prevent hot air from entering in the first place with our money–saving quick fixes and home improvement projects. Plus you'll do your part to fight climate change (each AC unit can release more than 2,200 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air every year). And you can improve the efficiency of your AC—if you have to run it on a particularly sweltering day.
Examine your windows
Check for leaks. Fill any gaps around window moldings with nontoxic caulking like Safecoat Caulking Compound ($9; dwellsmart.com).
Choose light–colored window treatments. Covering your windows can block as much as 40 percent of summer heat, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Pale–hued curtains or blinds can help reflect sunlight away from the house, says Katie Ackerly, coauthor of The Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings (New Society Publishers, 2007).
Use heat deflectors. Consider installing awnings, shutters, or reflective window film on sunny windows to further deflect heat, suggests Paul Scheckel, an energy analyst and author of The Home Energy Diet
Upgrade your windows. If you need to replace windows, choose Energy Star–certified ones—the DOE estimates that they can save you up to $465 a year. "But the payback period can be long, since the initial investment in new windows is pricey," says Scheckel.