Save energy. Stay cool with less AC.

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Keeping cool isn’t just about comfort. In the worst of recent heat waves, whether Chicago's in 1995 or New York's in 2006, hundreds have died. And climate change will only make this worse. But every time you crank up the air conditioning, power plants pump out more greenhouse gases, making the problem worse. Is there a way out of this cycle? Actually, yes. Recall the wise ways of your parents or grandparents and try some passive cooling techniques. They will cut your AC use and your energy bills and shrink your carbon footprint, too.

During the day: Shut curtains, shades or blinds on the sunny side of the house. If you are considering new window coverings, look for venetian (or horizontal) blinds in highly reflective, light colors, which can halve the heat buildup in your home. Blinds with two-inch-wide slats are especially nice since they open up the view without letting in more light.

At night: Turn off the AC and create a convective cooling system with your windows and a couple of fans. Crack open the windows on the first floor. Don’t throw them open wide; just raise them an inch or two. This will create a strong draft. Place portable and window-mounted fans in your upstairs windows, facing outward to remove the rising hot air. You’ll sleep well, knowing you are spending less and reducing your carbon footprint.