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We live in Mumbai - West coast of India, tropics. Summers are from March to July with temperatures reaching early 40 degree Celsius and a lot of humidity. It rains from July to September with temperatures in mid to late 30 degree Celsius. Octobers are hot like summers. November to March the temperatures dip to late 20 degree Celsius.

We live on the sixth floor of an apartment building in an non-air-conditioned house. Ceiling fans provide ventilation. We do not want to have air-conditioning as we believe it's harmful for the environment.

Our bedroom and living room have a 10ft X 4ft East facing window each. Two other rooms have same sized windows facing North and 5ft X 4ft windows facing East.

In the summers, things heat up quite a lot. What type of curtains should we use to make the house as comfortable as possible? Will it help if we plant vines in pots and let them crawl up the window grills? Also, should we use the same curtains during winters?

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    A good quality modern mini-split a/c unit which will have the proper refrigerant is not especially harmful to the environment. It does of course use more electric power than other means of reducing indoor temperatures in a hot, humid climate, but there is no other means that will have the effect of a refrigerant system. – Jim Stewart Nov 16 '18 at 12:28
  • with those temps, i would buy a carbon offset and run AC: win-win. – dandavis Nov 16 '18 at 16:49
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I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s in hot, humid south Louisiana and hot, less humid Dallas, Texas. We had no a/c in Louisiana and starting in about 1954 in Dallas we had window units in some rooms, but not in the bedroom I shared with my brother. In 1960 we moved to a new house in Dallas, Texas with central a/c. The improvement in comfort was astounding.

After leaving home I sometimes lived in downscale student digs without a/c and it was sub-optimal, but obviously tolerable. One place was cooled with an "evaporative cooler" or water fan. Mumbai is presumably too humid for those to be effective. For two years in my mid twenties I lived comfortably without a/c in Fiji near Suva, but Fiji's summer high temperatures are low compared to Dallas or Mumbai.

If you can afford it, I do not think you should deny yourself a/c in Mumbai on the grounds of damage to the environment.

But as far as other interventions on your existing house, outside louvers over the windows would be better than curtains inside. Louvers would reduce solar gain while still allowing airflow into the room. The sun will heat the louvers but much of the heat will stay outside.

  • +1 for the louvres. We have roll-down slatted blinds, which are ideal in summer and in winter (though winter is obviously not a problem for OP. It is important to block the heat before it hits the windows. – RedSonja Nov 16 '18 at 13:06
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Though Jim's answer is better, if you really want curtains, use thick ones with a reflective lining.

If you google "heat-blocking curtains" you'll see lots of suggestions for your area.

The secret is to close them before it gets hot. In the early morning let the cool air run through your house if possible, then close everything up to keep the heat out during the day.

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