He also recommends swapping traditional light bulbs for the new compact fluorescent bulbs, which give off far less heat.
Inside the house, tile and concrete floors absorb and release heat more slowly than carpet or wood. That's great if the floors are someplace that doesn't get much heat and sun. But if the tile or concrete is in a room with southern exposure, it will stay warm for a longer period of time. Also, it will be cold in winter.
David Lopez, an architect with Hord Coplan Macht and adjunct professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, recommends creating finished basements to take advantage of the cooler air underground. Use ceiling fans (when there's power) to keep the air circulating, and install a skylight at the top of stairs, which can be opened to let hot air escape, he said.
Lopez, who teaches design/build in the environmental design department, got some ideas about how to deflect heat while working on a recent project with MICA undergraduate students. They traveled to Haiti and created a prototype of transitional housing for people to live in after disasters, particularly in tropical climates. One goal was to keep the interior temperature as reasonable as possible, and his team achieved that by creating a double wall that trapped heat and allowed it to ventilate from the top.
While most people aren't going to add a second wall inside their existing one, they can allow heat to escape through windows and vents on top floors. Another idea from Lopez: If a house has south-facing windows that absorb heat, shade them with awnings or an architectural structure. Window planters are attractive and absorb the sun's heat, he said.
Lopez said the goal is to keep the windows open. Light-colored blinds provide some benefit, but only after the heat has entered the house.
"I think the important thing in rowhomes is to keep the air moving as much as possible," he said.
Fans can do tremendous good when there's power, but if there's an outage, it's time to rely on cross-ventilation and "stoop culture," Lopez said.
Other low-cost technologies that he said could be considered include "swamp coolers," which use water evaporation to cool air. They're not common here because they would only be used in the hottest months. But that may change.
"Obviously, the climatology of our region seems to be shifting," Lopez said. "So these types of things might come into consideration more for Baltimore residents."
5 tips to keep home cool
1. Use energy-efficient windows and weather stripping to keep cool air in and warm air out. Install large windows for cross-ventilation.
2. Excavate or finish a basement, then install a whole-house fan to keep the cooler air circulating.
3. Add a window or skylight on the top floor, to let warm air vent.
4. Invest in a light-colored roof, or a green roof with vegetation.
5. Build an outdoor kitchen, using light-colored materials for the patio surface.