Natural Cooling

Over the Memorial Day weekend I was visiting a house I designed 13 years ago. The weather was very nice… sunny about 80 degrees and comfortable inside without air conditioning.

Natural Solutions.

This started me thinking about heating, air-conditioning and comfort. Very often today, we have a tendency to jump to a technical solution and forget about those natural solutions that successfully provide comfort.

Somehow I don’t think we really wants a “cool” house in the summer and a “warm” house in the winter. I think what we are after is to be comfortable.

So why was this house comfortable in sunny 80 degree weather, with Southern facing glass and no air-conditioning?

Climate was the first reason. It was not humid. High cathedral ceilings in at the main spaces was the second reason. The ceiling height kept the layer of hot air far enough above the occupants to lessen the radiant heat effect. And third, there was a pleasant breeze which allowed for an air change and evaporative cooling across your skin.

In addition, the roof was very well insulated and the North side of the house was in shade. This allowed for a temperature induced draft from the cooler North side to the warmer South side.

In the late afternoon, the house would have a tendency to heat up a bit on the second floor. To augment the natural air flow, simple ceiling fans kept the air movement at the comfortable level so sleeping was no problem.

The three lessons I learned this weekend were:

  • What we really want is comfort.
  • You need to design with the climate and not against it.
  • Technology is best and most efficient when it is used to augment a natural solution instead of  replacing one.

As always, your comments are very valuable not only to me but to the others who drop by.




  • Kerry Alexander

    Reply Reply June 25, 2016

    Andy, I wonder if you could help me with comprehending how this works?

    Remember, heat will always go towards the cold to be equal and the North side of the house was in the shade.
    You stated, “This allowed for a temperature induced draft.”
    Is the induction actually from the warming side (south) to the cooler side? Or as you state, “from the cooler North side to the warmer South side.”?

    • Andy Sheldon

      Reply Reply July 25, 2016

      Thanks Kerry… I did get that the wrong way around.

  • Debbie

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Planning to build a cabin 20×24? close to a creek. Thinking about direction to be north-south with front north. 12.12 pitch with sleeping loft. Metal roof east-west with solar panels. Trees south and west. Would that be a good plan? Location-West_central Kentucky

    • Andy Sheldon

      Reply Reply July 2, 2012

      If I understand you correctly… the ridge will be East/West so you will have a South facing roof slope. If so, that would be fine for solar. With trees South and West you could be protected from the Summer sun. If the trees are not evergreen, then you will not have shade in the winter, which will be good, but in the summer your solar panels might receive shade… maybe not a good thing for

  • Jay R

    Reply Reply June 9, 2012

    I’m very interested in this topic, too, since I live in a hot, fairly humid climate that freezes maybe a total of three weeks out of the year, and has sometimes sixty or more consecutive days of triple digit heat. :-/ I’m not sure what kind of house designs can help mitigate some of that heat. Maybe the high ceilings like you mentioned….

  • Donald Miner

    Reply Reply June 9, 2012

    Reminds me when I lived in a farmhouse in northern New York state. We had no ac in those days (60( plus years ago. But we had some very nice air flow throughout the upstairs bedrooms. Whoever oriented, and designed the house, certainly knew what they were doing. We enjoyed many a good nights sleep on a very hot summer night, without even a fan. So sad that nowadays, too many people can’t see the forest for the trees, Everything has to be high tech. If we could only learn to use nature to our advantage, this would certainly be a better world to live in. Peace, Don

  • Eva

    Reply Reply June 5, 2012

    Hi Andy,
    I would love to see an off grid plan – no clunky toilette, perhaps the kind with a composting box outside.
    something that utilizes more than solar, because my little house may be placed near trees and there would not be enough sun hitting the panels..?
    heating..? (not woodstove)

    any ideas?

    • Donald Miner

      Reply Reply June 9, 2012

      Eva, have you considered passive solar earth berm designs? I don’t know your site layout, but it might be worth considering. Peace, Don Miner

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