Although the hottest month of the year has passed and the Japanese will tell you that summer is over, we all know the heat is going to be around for at least another month. While a Japanese former neighbor of mine used to swear the only way to keep her house cool was to water the concrete outside her front door every morning and night, I prefer to use some methods that are a little more eco-friendly.
• Replace old air conditioners with new ones. An old air conditioner will not be nearly as efficient as a newer model.
• And while we‘re on the subject of air conditioning, save some yen and use a portable or ceiling fan instead. Even the slightest of air movement will make you feel a few degrees cooler.
• If you can’t do without the air con, use a fan along with your air conditioner to spread the cool air throughout your home. Make sure all windows are closed, and that any doors to unused rooms are shut too.
• Learn how to read the kanji on your air con controller and use the timer to have the air con turn on ten minutes before you get home, rather than leaving it on for the entire time you’re out.
• Air conditioning units that operate in the shade use less electricity, so use plants or trees to shade the unit.
• In fact, where possible, use trees and plants to shade windows that get direct sunlight. Vines can be particularly useful—and will grow on anything to which you can attach them!
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have been used in air conditioning units ever since chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol for being damaging
to the Earth’s ozone layer. However, HFCs are still potent greenhouse gases, with thousands of times more potential to cause global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2).
• Turn off any electrical goods you have in your home when not in use. Think about how hot your TV or computer can get—this all adds to the heat! Plug electronic goods into power boards, and turn the individual switches off when not in use.
• Trade incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents—same light, less energy! Turn off lights not in use—but remember to set your cockroach traps.
Japanese offices that participate in the Cool Biz campaign of reducing air conditioning use must maintain a temperature of no lower than 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).
• Fit white window curtains or blinds to reflect heat away from your home—and keep them closed during the day.
• Use a microwave oven instead of your oven. Or better yet, stick to foods that don’t require any heating at all (see previous Body Balance: Summer Snacking).
• Although it may be hard to convince the Japanese otherwise, switch the baths for showers in order to lower hot water use.
• Wash only full loads of clothes—and don’t be lazy by using the dryer. The positive thing about the Japanese summer is that, hung out in the sun, clothes will dry in minutes!
Japan Cool Biz campaign, Wikipedia