Keeping the house cool

Or, more accurately, cooling the house off after its gotten hot.

There is, of course, the traditional use of the a/c when its just too hot outside. We usually only a/c the house to 80′ which means it won’t kick on till its been 85’+ for several hours.

In early spring and in nice weather, like today, its cooler outside than inside and if I just let it all go the a/c will still kick on at some point because the house itself hasn’t really cooled off. But if I can get the outside cool air into the house, that will cool off inside and help the house/attic cool off faster. Usually this helps keep the a/c from kicking on, sometimes, for days.

The key is a fan in the window facing outwards. Then it will suck the air from inside the house out, pulling air in via the other open windows. Box fans work best, I think.

Usually, the fan sits in the dining room window (the second picture), but the cool weather and rain persist this morning, and I couldn’t handle the loud white noise any more. So, I moved it to the guest bedroom window on the other side of the house.

Years ago, I had a fancy-wancy two fan do-dad that had all sorts of settings… blow air in, blow air out, high, med, low… for each fan. Plus it sat in the window such that it covered the whole window. It  had nifty bits on the sides that you could stretch out to cover the rest of the window. That seems to be the secret to getting the air flowing nicely — you can’t be pulling air from a window right next to the fan or from the window the fan in in. Ideally, the fan should sit in a window like the second picture where the fan nearly completely covers the whole window opening or have something around the fan to prevent air from being pulled in from the same window the fan is sitting in.

Also, that fan will get really dirty, even if you don’t live in a very polluted place. Out in Los Angeles, the fan in the window would get grimy gross, but then, everything got grimy gross when the windows were open. Here, in central Texas, its much nicer, but the box fan is still dirty from dusty air. I have a second box fan that is not allowed in the window because I am not confident I can clean it easily.

Once the fan is in the window, turn it on. The higher the fan speed, the greater the amount of air flow, but also the louder it will be, so you’ve got to find your happy medium on that. It mostly depends on outside air temp and season for me. During early spring, I rarely turn the fan past “1” because its not getting all that hot. Today, the fan is on “3”, as high as it will go, because this coolness will pass quickly once the clouds have spent themselves.

Then, open windows throughout the house. One window in each room works, and sometimes I just open one other window on the opposite end of the house as I don’t want the bedrooms to get too cold (that’s an early spring/late fall issue). Of course, if its raining, the direction the rain is coming from can make a difference.

I imagine that if I was willing to put the second fan in a window, I’d put it in another room, and get more air flow.

Its a simple thing, but if it actually cools off outside, I can drop our inside temp by 10′ easily (from 80′ to 70′). That requires outside temps to get to the mid 60’s, generally. I won’t go through the trouble of opening up and turning on the fan unless its going to reach an outside low of at least 73′ or so, and if at 10 pm, its still 80′ outside, I likely won’t open up unless we are looking at hitting mid 60’s or less by morning. (that is quite rare, but it happens. It means you go to bed warmer than normal, but as the night cools, the house cools). It costs about $0.10 to run the fan for 10 hours, so leaving it on overnight is a fairly good deal compared to letting the a/c run.

If you leave the house closed up, it can take days of cool weather before the whole inside cools off. Of course, come late fall (and, perhaps winter), I starting opening the windows only the during the day to warm up the house.

Yes, this also brings in allergens and dust, but its worth it in my mind. Plus, I’ve read that raising children in a sealed environment isn’t all that great for them. Of course, if you live a really polluted area, it might not be worth opening up (thinking of a place like Beijing China, where its better to just stay indoors than go running the air is so bad).

What strategies do you have for keeping the house comfy?


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