How to cool your cottage in hot weather

windows Photo by Woody Alec/Shutterstock

Keeping the interior of a three-season cottage cool can be a challenge, particularly if you’re working without an air conditioner. If you find yourself struggling to sleep on hot, muggy summer nights, it might be time for some renovations to promote a cool, comfortable cottage living space.

Go bright
When the sun hits the siding or brick face of any structure, the material absorbs that solar radiation and emits heat to the building’s interior, says Ben Polley, President at Evolve Builders Group. The darker the colour of the material, the more heat will be absorbed and radiated into the structure. To avoid this, choose light-coloured paints and siding for a cottage exterior.

Researchers at Purdue University have been taking this concept and pushing it to the extreme. A team led by Xiangyu Li recently developed ‘the whitest paint ever’, and demonstrated that the product can reflect 98.1% of sunlight back out into space. The researchers claim that painting a building’s rooftop with this ultra-white paint will allow its reflective powers to cool the structure and reduce the need for air conditioners.

Polley, who was not involved with the research, cautions that the paint will not turn your walls into an air conditioner. In an email to Cottage Life, he wrote that the paint would, “prevent a surface from absorbing visible and non-visible solar radiation, which will help keep it from absorbing this radiation in the form of heat.” However, he adds, “While it may reduce the effects of solar radiation and thus improve interior comfort, it is not a chemical or biological reaction that creates ‘cold,’ which is how I read their promotion of the product.”

The product’s researchers describe the benefits for use on rooftops,where it wouldn’t be visible from the ground, but if people were to use it on walls, that ultra-white might not vibe with a laid-back natural cottage-style. “For cottages on lakefronts, this would have the opposite effect of what we’re generally trying to do, which is blend in with the environment, as opposed to standing out. This would be a white beacon,” says Polley.

Create your own shade
There are other ways to keep heat from solar rays at bay. Polley suggests adding a porch or overhanging roofs or shade structures over windows to prevent direct solar radiation from reaching your cottage.  His suggestions are echoed by Sheena Sharp, Principal and Owner at Coolearth Architecture Inc. “Traditional forms like porches are not just charming,” she says,  “they keep the sun off the walls entirely.”

Harness the wind
Take advantage of the ancient art of natural ventilation, says Sharp. Both prevailing winds and lake-effect breezes can be used to a cottager’s advantage. “Mostly, the breeze goes towards the lake in the morning, and towards the shore in the evening,” says Sharp. “Traditional cottages take advantage of this by “night flushing”, which is where you orient and size the windows to catch the cooler night breezes, and allow the cooler night temperature to flush out the warmer air.”

Enlist the help of Mother Nature
Both Sharp and Polley shouted out tree planting as a way to cool a cottage. Both conifers and deciduous trees will provide shade, but Sharp adds that deciduous trees are particularly useful around full-season cottages. “Deciduous trees shade buildings in summer and when the leaves fall off, allow heat though in winter,” says Sharp.

Read more: This contemporary cabin blends traditional building smarts with new green ideas

Take a tour: See inside this off-grid multi-generational cottage on Georgian Bay 


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