July 22, 2023
Where is the coolest place to hang out this summer? Is it a dive bar, a swanky restaurant, a microbrewery or a trendy dance club? It might be a public library.
Every city in Ventura County, except Santa Paula, has at least one public library planning to keep air conditioners on during operating hours, serving as a community cooling center. Santa Paula instead will use its community center. Some community centers in other cities and libraries in unincorporated communities will also be available.
Sharing an air-conditioned space is certainly more economical and ecological than everyone conditioning their own home all day. For many people without air conditioning in their home, community spaces may be the only places to breathe cool air.
But for most people, who will inevitably be in their own homes during the hot afternoons and early evening hours of summer, many techniques can reduce temperatures without cranking up an air conditioner to full power.
On July 13, Ventura County’s sustainability division, which operates within the county’s executive office, hosted a webinar where dozens of participants heard tips for staying cool. Window coverings were one area of focus. Window coverings cool your home if you close them during the hottest hours, open them and windows at night and choose cellular shades or other insulating designs.
Other tips presented during the webinar were also useful. Reduce indoor cooking by serving dishes like tuna salad, ceviche and gazpacho.
If you still have old incandescent light bulbs, then you have not been convinced by energy savings to switch, but perhaps knowing they are an additional source of heat could make a difference. At least replace halogen lamps, which are even worse energy hogs.
Of course, one of the best methods for summer cooling is also the oldest. It does not require any special technology or manufactured product and it fights climate change by absorbing carbon. Plant trees to
create natural shade. If planting trees, or even shrubs, is not a practical solution for you, consider installing awnings or external window shades.
Another old-fashioned solution mentioned in the webinar is to hang clothing to dry rather than using a clothes dryer. Clothes dryers convert energy to heat, and machine drying also increases household
Even following these tips, increasing hot weather may send some people shopping for an air conditioner. In my neighborhood, on a hillside with ocean breezes, many homes were built without air
conditioning, but increasingly, I see neighbors add cooling systems.
Shantal Perez, office manager of Green Air Logic, based in Ventura, stresses big environmental differences between various air conditioning options. “Looking for Energy Star certification is just the
beginning; deciding on the right technology is even more important,” she said. Green Air Logic is one of several contractors offering options, with incentives for energy-conserving choices, through 3C-REN, the
Tri-County Regional Energy Network, an energy conservation partnership between San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Javier Saucedo, an energy efficiency consultant and auditor working for the county sustainability office, criticized window air conditioning units as noisy and said they often don’t fit properly and aren’t very efficient. In contrast, ductless electric heat pumps use lower energy and adjust to either heat or cool. Heat pumps can also improve air quality. Saucedo pointed out incentives available through 3C-REN, Tech
Clean California and “up to $2,000 tax credits … when you buy a heat pump and have it installed by a participating qualified contractor.”
For those who already have air conditioning, Perez recommends regular maintenance to boost efficiency. “Have the system checked once a year,” she said. “Refrigerant levels and dirty filters make systems work harder and cycle on longer.”
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.