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4 ways to naturally cool your home when building in a hot climate

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

The world is getting hotter, West Africa in particular Ghana is becoming very hot. Some days the capital city of Accra can be unbearably hot and humid, due to global warming the average daily temperature is now around 30 degrees, this average daily temperature is due to rise by 5.4 degrees by 2080.

Due to the rising temperatures, this will also result in the rise of energy bills for most of us. Higher temperature means more use of electronic cooling systems in our homes.

Although these cooling methods can give us a temporary fix, some can do more damage than good.

Cons of using Fans

Fans are low in energy consumption and are great for circulating air, but it can attract a lot of dust, especially in the dry season where dust is at an all-time high, which can trigger sinus allergies.

Cons of using Air conditioners

Air conditioners are a great way to get instant cooling relief but they are not always great for our health and also contribute to global warming, therefore, creating a vicious cycle.

  • The more we turn on our A/C units the more hot air is being extracted from the internal room and being put back out to the external environment. This in turn is contributing to heating up the outside temperature, can you image in a hot city like Accra where the daily average is in the 30’s and thousands of AC’s working at the same time, all that hot air blasting from every AC extractor making our city feeling even hotter.

  • AC units also use hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that emit pollutants that put holes in the ozone.

  • They also need a lot of energy to power, the more we use them the more fossil fuels being burned to create energy to power.

  • If AC units are not regularly cleaned they can be a source of health issues. Air contamination can become a severe problem that contributes to respiratory illnesses in people. Additionally, air conditioning can lead to problems, such as colds, fevers, headaches and fatigue.

"The warmer it gets, the more we use air conditioning. The more we use air conditioning, the warmer it gets. Is there any way out of this trap?" – Stephen Buranyi for the Guardian

Homes in 50's & 60's Ghana

Our company really believes in learning from the past and what the previous generations did with architecture and materials to cope with the tropical climate. In a country like Ghana for example, when you look back at older buildings, they were really built to deal with the tropical climate.

Homes built in the 50,s and 60,s tends to be well-ventilated, positioning is favorable to allow maximum ventilation and cooling, and windows that are used are normally louvered to help further with cross ventilation in the home. In some homes you will get fan-light windows to help rising hot air escape, trees shade the homes and even flooring is traditional terrazzo which keeps the home extra cool because of the natural river stone materials that is used, terrazzo flooring is also long-lasting, highly durable and non toxic.

Even if you go as far back as the traditional mud home, the earth is the perfect material to build with as it’s proven to keep the interior temperature cool.

Today in Ghana, homes look a lot different and have a lot of western influence without taking into consideration how it will adapt to the hot tropical climate.

When constructing your new home there are plenty of natural cooling strategies and practices that you can incorporate to create passive or low cost cooling.

4 ways to naturally cool your home

1. Geo thermal cooling (underground cooling system)

Geothermal cooling is a renewable energy system that moves heat from your home underground, thus using below the earth’s surface under your home like a heat sink.

Geothermal energy cools air by moving hot air through a geothermal heat pump, therefore moving heat from inside your home to the cooler environment 20 feet under the earth's surface. Thermal heat pumps are low in energy when connected to the grid or can be solar if you want to go completely off the grid with your cooling.

Due to the mass of the earth below, geothermal systems can cool even in extreme heat, great for cities like Accra. Another environmentally friendly element of geothermal cooling systems is the hardware: The below-ground loop can last for generations and the above-ground equipment for decades.

2. Louver windows

Near the equator, windows facing north or south will absorb the least heat. In warm tropical climates like Ghana, a louvered window is one of the best types of windows for natural ventilation. However, as air-conditioning & sliding windows became more popular louvered windows became uncool.

Today when building a home in Ghana, the thought of installing louvered windows isn’t always the first choice or doesn’t even cross the minds of the client. This is unfortunate as this is the best type of window and can outperform any new modern window type.

Louvred windows have many advantages in tropical regions. They offer energy-efficient ways to light and cool a home in warm climates naturally.

When fully open they allow for almost up to 100% ventilation.

Today louver windows have come a long way from how they were 50 years ago, modern louvered windows offer a more sophisticated locking mechanism also some have solar on the blades to help capture energy for your home.

3. Clay roof

Roofing is one of the most important components when it comes to building your home that is often overlooked. Its important that you choose the right material for your roof as this can be the difference from living in a hot box or having a roof that can absorb