Midcoast Green Collaborative Forum

July 8, 2008

Sustainability Post #24 — Cooling your house.

Filed under: Conversation, Information — Tags: — Topher @ 10:02 am

Ever wondered how our ancestors survived without air conditioning, in (basically) uninsulated houses?  They had a number of techniques, some of which I have adapted for my own use.

1) Proper control of windows:   When spring finally arrives, I start opening windows, a few at a time, whenever it is nicer outside than in.  The next day I start installing screens and killing bugs 🙂  As it gets warmer, I leave the windows open all the time (except for thunderstorms).  When days get hot (as this one threatens to be), I close the windows in the morning to retain all the coolth I collected over the evening, and open them again when it cools off at night.  If it remains hot at night, I just open some top windows (for me that is the attic as it is part of my living space) and some lower windows  to let the stack effect empty out the hottest air.  If there is a wind, the upper windows get opened on the downwind side, and the lower on the upwind side.  (If the lower windows are in the basement make sure you don’t exacerbate a moisture condensation problem).  Stack effect is most aided by having twice as much window area open in the low windows as the high windows.

2) Shutters:  Many modern houses have their shutters nailed or screwed open (or even fake plastic shutters, ick).  What use is that?  Shutters are meant to be closed on hot sunny days to prevent sunlight from entering and to allow cool breezes to enter.  These are especially useful on the west side, where the low afternoon sunlight comes in.   The south side isn’t as much of a concern since the sun is high and most of the window will be shaded by roof overhang or even just as they are.  Skylights are generally the worst offenders, and shuttering them is near impossible.

3) No added heat: Look at your electric bill (for a month without air conditioning), multiply the number of kiloWatt-hours per day by 3412, that is how many BTUs of heat you are adding to your house every day.  If all that heat was just warming the air each kiloWatt-Hour would raise the temperature of your house by roughly 10ºF.  (It heats other things too).  Don’t use electrical appliances unless you absolutely need to, find and unplug any phantom loads (TVs, VCRs, etc. that can be turned on by remote; power supplies with transformers (those heavy block plugs); Things with clocks, that don’t need to have clocks.  Take colder shorter showers (refreshing as well).  If you take them at night they will help cool you down from a long hot day.

4) No added moisture.  Well if it isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity, then quit adding humidity.  Take cool baths instead of showers, or just take a dip.  Cover any pots on the stove (yes, you should be doing this anyway).

5) Wind: Fans can substitute for a bit of wind to get circulation going (see point #1), but generally they are best pointed directly at skin.  Use fans which are directly pointed at humans to help with evaporative cooling.  Ceiling fans should be set to blow air down.

6) Drink:  I am not an advocate of huge amounts of water, but have a cool glass of water next to you at all times, and you will drink enough and be cooler (IMHO).

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