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10 Ways to Cool a House Without Air Conditioning
Sleeping on the veranda was absolutely necessary after a hot summer day. The upper floor of the farmhouse, built in the 1940s, was turned into a sauna, and it was not possible to sleep in the upstairs bedrooms. Even after the sun went down, it seemed warmer upstairs. Let’s look at some ways to cool the house without an air conditioner?
Now that I’m spending time figuring out how to make a home more energy efficient, I think back to those hot summer days and wonder about two things:
1. Where was the air conditioning?
I’ve seen several articles floating around that talk about air conditioning as an unnecessary appliance. That people have gone soft, and if people handled the heat like a caveman, they wouldn’t need those energy-wasting air conditioners.
I grew up in that Northwest farmhouse, and air conditioning was not an expectation. I slept on the porch a few times a year. Air conditioning was only available to city folk who weren’t lucky enough to live on a farm.
Where was the air conditioning? It was still in the Variety Store catalog.
2. Why did it get so hot upstairs in the evening?
When you’re sleeping on the porch and your 10-year-old doesn’t really care why it’s so hot upstairs. He doesn’t try to figure that out before sleeping on the porch again. You like to sleep on the porch.
If it’s too hot to sleep upstairs and you’d rather not risk sleeping on the porch or anywhere else outside, then considering why it’s so hot upstairs and throughout the house at night becomes an important question to address.
Air conditioners are quite energy-saving devices, but they do not work freely. With the constant grinding of the air conditioner and the electricity bill increasing by the hour, one tends to wonder why it is so hot upstairs and how to cool down the house.
The old farmhouse was moved to a new location and I had the opportunity to look into the attic while part of the roof was being removed. Instead of the attic being the dark, haunted cave of my childhood, it was an inviting space to explore, with lots of natural light.
I was surprised to see that there was nothing in the attic. No old magazines, no old socks or toys, no old rat or cat carcasses. Of course, there was no insulation, and I could see the chimney from the attic clearly into the basement. This is a good starting point for answering questions about how to cool your house.
There was no ventilation on the roof in the attic either at the peak or on the roof. The only ventilation was provided by two gable vents, one at each end of the attic. The roof shingles were always dark in color.
I now understand very well why the upstairs of this old house was so damn hot after a hot summer day. The attic collected the heat all day and then shared it with the people on the ground floor all night.
How to prevent the attic from overheating and spoiling a good night’s sleep.
Here are 10 ways to cool your house before installing an air conditioner. They’ll help make your home livable in the evenings – try these retrofits and upgrades.
1. Solar powered attic fan
A solar powered attic fan works very well and is a one time investment of between $450 and $800. When mounted on the roof, the self-contained solar unit draws hot air from the attic when the sun hits the solar panel with enough direct sunlight to operate the fan.
The best performance is achieved when the attic ventilation is installed along the vestibule and the peak ventilation is limited.
2. Roof irrigation system
Well, it works on flat commercial buildings, but also on homes. Anything that cools the roof surface will help prevent heat from radiating into the attic. Unfortunately, this can significantly increase your water bill. Sprinkler and hose, $20. Water bill around $300.
3. Really big trees
Shade the roof for a cooler attic and a cooler home. If you have a two-story home and are in the process of planting shade trees, this solution may take some time to implement. A larch is 12 inches tall, $4.95. You can expect a shadow in 40 years.
4. Air sealing of the attic
Especially before adding insulation – don’t insulate the attic floor without first sealing the vents and openings with air. The best procedure is a good drop light, knee pads and a can of Great Stuff spray foam insulation. Materials cost, $30.
5. Add additional roof ventilation
Ways to cool the house start with attic ventilation. Most older homes simply don’t have enough attic ventilation. The ventilation should allow air to flow from the eve to the top. Take out the solid bird lock and add screened vents to the eves. Add fabricated metal or plastic roof vents near the peak. The best time to ventilate the attic is during the installation of the new roofing. Eve Soffit Vents, $8.50. Roof peak vents are about $12
6. Add insulation
Install the insulation after sealing. The insulation helps to slow down the transfer of heat from the attic to the living space below. The more insulation, the better. Building codes are constantly adding to insulation, with R-49 insulation being the code in some of the colder parts of the country. That’s about 16 inches of insulation.
Don’t worry, this can be a DIY project. Large hardware stores have the necessary materials and equipment for the job.
In colder climates add insulation to keep warm and in warmer climates to keep cool. Add 12 inches of blown fiberglass insulation for about $1.25 to $1.75 per square foot of attic floor space.
7. Sealing the floor connection of the knee wall.
Many older two-story houses have hipped attics. This is the space along the walls of the upstairs room that reduced the headroom on the sides of the room. You know, you’re standing upstairs and you have to be careful to stand in the middle of the room so you don’t hit your head.
The problem is that the knee wall attic is often open to the space between the floor of the upstairs room and the ceiling of the downstairs room. This means that the hot air in the knee wall attic can go directly under the upstairs floor and help heat the whole house.
Put some insulation in a plastic bag and place a bag in the knee wall attic between each floor joist opening. This prevents warm air from moving between the floor and the ceiling. Sealing the openings of these floor joists is important during the cooling and heating season. Plastic bags $0.50, insulation, bag $1.00.
8. Sealing chimney
In older balloon houses, the chimney frame is often open and allows heat and cold to be transported between all floors, from the attic to the basement. For efficient cooling and heating, these corridors must be closed. Spray foam insulation, $7.00 per box.
9. Place fans in upstairs windows
Place one or more large box fans in upstairs windows. Place them so that they blow out the window. Close all other windows and exterior doors, but leave interior doors open all the way to the basement. Pull the cooler basement air up through the house and out the upstairs windows.
Basements are always cooler and can help cool the rest of the home. Hopefully there isn’t a smelly tank of stove oil in the basement! A good box fan is about $30.
10. Install solar panels
Typically, when you install solar panels on your roof, the panels are placed on a rack system that holds the panels about 3 inches from the roof. The panels prevent the sun’s rays from reaching the roof surface and slow down the heat transfer to the attic.
One of the advantages of solar panels is the shading of the roof on a hot day. Maybe not as good in shade as a big larch, but still shady.
Most electricity providers will help you install solar panels. They know that when the weather warms up and all the air conditioners kick in, they need all the help they can get to cool the house.
I wish I had that old farmhouse with the big porch and yard. I would have a few tricks up my sleeve for those hot summer evenings when it got so damn hot upstairs. After sealing and insulating the attic, I would install a solar attic fan, some solar panels on the roof, put a couple of box fans in the upstairs windows, and spread out my sleeping bag on the porch.
This way you can cool the house, but you can also sleep peacefully on the veranda. Of course, you should have a better air mattress these days than before.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you sleep a little cooler tonight, don’t forget to turn off the lights…
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