How to Design Cool Tropical Homes

Written by janetb
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How to Design Cool Tropical Homes
Homes built for tropical climates must be designed to mitigate heat. (Tropical landscape image by purplecat from

Designing a home that can remain cool in a hot and often humid tropical climate is a challenge. Traditional homes are designed to retain heat so as to reduce the efforts and cost of heating them in winter, but homes in a tropical climate face exactly the opposite conditions. By designing a home that fits the climate, you can reduce your energy costs and make life more pleasant.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Incorporate solar energy into your plans. Any home in a tropical climate has the advantage of having plenty of sunshine available. Adding solar panels to your design means that when you do have to turn on the air conditioning, it won't cost you a fortune.

  2. 2

    Take advantage of prevailing wind patterns. Situate and design your home to allow any afternoon breezes to blow through the home, lightening the oppressiveness of the tropical heat. Plan for sliding doors and panels that open up a room completely to the outside, blurring the line between interior and exterior and allowing breezes into your home.

  3. 3

    Add ceiling fans to every room. Ceiling fans get air moving to create a breeze where there is none, and help waft hot air away. As a bonus, they are low in energy costs.

  4. 4

    Paint your roof white or a light colour to reflect the sun away from the house. An alternative is to design a metal roof that will do the same thing.

  5. 5

    Just add water. Design your tropical home with plenty of pools and fountains surrounding it. As breezes blow over them, the water will have a cooling effect, and the sound of trickling fountains will add to the overall feeling of relaxation.

  6. 6

    Plant trees, or situate your house so that it is surrounded by trees. Avoid windows on eastern and western walls, which will heat up early with the sunrise and stay warm late with the sunset. Plant your trees on the eastern and western sides of your house in particular to keep your roof and windows shaded, and on the north side to keep the roof cool. Simply stepping from the sun into the shade can cause a temperature drop of several degrees, so make sure your house takes advantage of this. Make sure to leave part of your roof unshaded if you're planning to install solar panels.

  7. 7

    Design your house with wide eaves to keep the tropical sun from hitting windows directly. If you angle and design well, you can create permanent shade around your house.

  8. 8

    Don't pour a concrete patio outside the house. Concrete absorbs and reflects heat, and will make the house bake during hot afternoons.

  9. 9

    Ventilate your roof. Plan for a tall roof with plenty of ventilation space between it and the ceiling. Hot air will rise into the roof space and out of the living space.

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