Published on August 11, 2023

Beating the heat: 6 sustainable solutions for a cooler home

Record-breaking temperatures in Canada and across the globe are revealing the need for innovative climate adaptation measures.

It’s been a summer of record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather.


Last month was the hottest month ever recorded, according to the World Meteorological Organization, with extreme heatwaves in large parts of North America, Asia and Europe. The organization also points out that Canada has seen its worst ever wildfire season, harming air quality for millions of people in North America and impacting people’s health, the environment and economies.


“I think the extreme heat Canadians have been facing this summer have been opening more eyes to seriousness of the climate crisis,” says Josh Welch, Evergreen Program Officer for the AI for the Resilient City Program. “We need to experiment with innovative solutions and apply tools that already exist to ensure that proper decisions and policies can be implemented to reduce the impacts.”


Canadians across the country are still feeling the burn, and the increasing cost of staying cool at home and work adds to the challenge. To tackle the rising temperatures and make a positive impact on our environment, there are practical measures you can take right at home. Here are some of our favorite tips and retrofits to help you keep your cool and contribute to a more resilient future.


1. Greening your property


Creating a cooler and more sustainable home starts with harnessing the natural benefits of greenery. Trees in particular offer a multifaceted solution for cooling your property. Through a process called transpiration, trees release water vapor into the air, which cools the surrounding atmosphere. Additionally, the canopy acts as natural shade, shielding your property from direct sunlight and preventing excessive heat from penetrating indoors. Try shading the south- and west-facing windows from the sun with deciduous plants. Generally, if you plant a six- to eight-foot deciduous tree near your home, it will start shading your windows in the first year and your roof in fewer than ten years.


2. Cool roofs


Installing a cool roof can have a noticeable effect on your energy consumption — and your energy bills. These roofs are characterized by light-coloured or highly reflective surfaces. This enables them to bounce back a significant portion of the sunlight that would otherwise be absorbed as heat. Green roofs take sustainability to a new level by introducing vegetation. In addition to the same transpiration benefits provided by nearby trees, green roofs also enhance insulation, reduce stormwater runoff and even improve air quality.


Two windows, with one of the windows having a reflective coating


3. Multi-pane windows


Boosting your home’s cooling efficiency doesn’t stop at the roof. Multi-pane windows — meaning double or even triple pane — is a proven method. These windows create an insulating barrier that helps keep cold air in during hot seasons and warm air inside during colder months, saving you money on both cooling and heating costs. Another cost-effective technique involves applying reflective coatings to windows, which is especially suitable for rental units.


4. Electric heat pumps


A smart solution for both cooling and heating your home while being gentle on your wallet and the environment. These innovative systems work by extracting natural heat from the air or ground, transferring it to your home during the colder months and removing it during the warmer months. While the initial investment may seem high, utility and government rebates are available across the country to help offset upfront costs.


5. Water heat sinks


Taking a dip on a hot day is the easiest way to cool off — at least for those lucky enough with access to pool or lake. But beyond a summer chill-out, these sites also act as heat sinks. A heat sink absorbs and dissipates heat, acting as a thermal reservoir. Bodies of water, such as pools, ponds and even smaller water features can serve as effective heat sinks, absorbing excess heat during the day and releasing it slowly during the cooler nights. While your options might be limited by local bylaws and budget constraints, don’t overlook these aquatic advantages.


6. Seal leaks


Even small actions can yield big results. By sealing air leaks with precision, you can fortify your home against temperature fluctuations. Caulking and weatherstripping can make a substantial impact on your indoor climate, ensuring a well-regulated environment regardless of the season.


Skyline photo of city


AI for the Resilient City


The need to prepare for climate-related hazards — from droughts to fires, heat waves to rising global temperatures — has never been more urgent. That’s why Evergreen has developed AI for the Resilient City, a data visualization and analytics tool that’s helping municipalities plan for and mitigate the impacts of climate change.


The tool uses open-source datasets, including surface temperature, vegetation, infrastructure and population, to generate past, present and projected maps of urban heat islands in Canadian communities. In its early use, the tool has illustrated the incredible impact that even small areas of green public space and small bodies of water can have on the surrounding environment.


“Our goal is to empower all Canadians by placing this tool at their fingertips, enabling them to make more informed decisions regarding issues like the urban heat island effect,” Welch adds.


Learn more


Visit the website to read more about the first two phases of the AI for the Resilient City program, and stay tuned for updates on how this initiative will unfold in a city near you.


AI for the Resilient City is funded in part by the RBC Foundation through RBC Tech for Nature.