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Cheap and easy summer home cooling ideas

This page last updated on or about late 7-8-07
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I sweltered for many years in something like an attic office with no A/C. So when I heard some friends were currently suffering a similar predicament, I put together this page for them. And posted it online for whoever might find it useful.

Some things you might try to battle summer heat include:

Re-scheduling. Adjusting your schedule so that you avoid the worst hours in your hottest rooms, and use them just during the coolest instead. For example, in my old attic-style office the hottest hours were usually the late afternoon, after the roof just above me had baked in the sun all day. The coolest times tended to be late at night and the early morning. A happy coincidence back then was the costs of my dial-up net connection were also their lowest during the coolest hours.

Rearranging rooms. Make changes in which room you use for what, so as to minimize the heat problem. I.e., maybe swapping out your PC room with another currently used for storage or other purposes. I eventually did this myself, relocating to a room on the shady side of the building.

Choosing a cooler PC display. If you have to buy a new PC display anyway, consider getting a flat panel LCD or similar device. Those exude much less heat than the old-fashioned CRTs (plus take up far less desk space, and can be easier on old, tired eyes-- not to mention much less of a chore to move around too, than the bulky old tube displays).

Painting your roof white, to reflect away the sunlight rather than absorb so much of it. Actually, any lighter color than at present can be helpful-- but white is likely the best for this particular purpose. Keep in mind your roof gets the worst weather beating of any portion of your dwelling. So use paint which will stand up to the abuse. Otherwise you might have to repaint the thing every year.

Avoiding unnecessary use of heat-producing items like a conventional kitchen stove or toaster oven on the hottest days (microwaves are more cool-friendly). Hair-dryers too should be avoided if possible. Your hair will dry naturally pretty fast-- and such natural drying will help keep you cool, too.

Avoiding the use of heat-producing lighting such as incandescents (CFLs/fluorescents are usually cooler). Some lamps like upscale halogens get so hot they’re outright safety hazards, let alone tremendous A/C drags.

Replacing heat-generating artificial light with daylight. In some cases opening window blinds/curtains to use sunlight rather than certain indoor lighting during the day may be advantageous to the overall cooling situation, in this regard.

Better ventilating any attic or region between roof and ceiling you might possess (especially if the ceiling isn't insulated) can reduce the heat normally collected there. In some houses there's already good-sized vents up there, maybe one on one side of the attic, and another on the opposite. Installing a fan at each vent to speed up the process during summers could be helpful (but remember running the fans in winter could freeze your ass off). Both fans should be moving air in the same direction. Otherwise they'll be fighting each other, and the hot air might simply stay where it's at. The best fan orientation is likely having one be an intake, pulling air from the shady or coolest side of the house, and into the attic, and the other an exhaust, pushing air out of the space, to a hotter side of the building.

Avoid cutting down trees around your house. For their shade helps keep your home cooler in summer. That also means adding trees can help-- but even the fastest growing will take a while to contribute to your comfort! A faster growing alternative to trees might be certain kinds of bushes. But be sure to plant them at the spots you need sun protection the most.

Erecting a sunlight shield outside any immediate un-insulated wall which might be conveying direct solar heat into your living space. Even a partial shield along the bottom of the wall might help. Light-colored shields are the best to reflect away the heat.

A shield can be as simple as a white bed sheet on a clothes line outside-- so long as it's between the sun and your wall.

Vines. Reprising the foliage concept, a sunlight shield can also consist of leafy vines growing up a trellis or lattice work in front of a wall in need of sunlight protection. Many vines are fast-growers, and so can go from cold weather leafless to warm weather leafy pretty much as fast as you'd need them to. Some vines will retain leaves all year round-- but in winter time you might want the cold weather leafless variety in order to absorb some sunlight for heat.

Moving your activities from an upstairs room to a downstairs one (heat naturally flows upwards) The basement is usually the very coolest, but often brings new problems due to humidity and mold. So operating in a basement will necessarily be more complex than utilizing your lowest above-ground floor.

Keep your A/C breathing well. If you have an outside air conditioner with growing vegetation around it, that needs to be kept trimmed to optimize your A/C. Clogged air filters might also cause problems.

Setting a pan of ice in front of an electric fan with it blowing towards you might help.

Don't let heat in. If your home's inside is cooler than the outside, avoiding opening windows and doors can help keep the cold in. Likewise, improvised 'air locks' at entrances (like blankets or insulated curtains hung from the door frames separating interior rooms) can be used to create buffer zones so any hot air brought in from outside by comings and goings is kept contained in the room with the outside door...

Stopping all daytime sunlight from entering via windows helps too (keeping in mind the lighting exceptions above). Also, plastic over single layered (non-storm versions) windows can help keep heat out in summer just as it helps keep heat in during winter. Insulated curtains-- while not as good as storm windows or plastic over the windows-- can often still be a help both in warm weather and cold.

Wear as little clothing as practical in hot weather, and make it something breathable and light. Occasionally take a quickie cold shower rinse too (making sure to thoroughly wet your hair).

Avoid wearing any sort of hat or cap or headband inside in warm weather. Your head is a major body cooler, and insulating it will make you lots hotter.

A towel well-dampened with cold water and hung from the back of your neck, with the ends down your chest, can make you feel lots cooler. Women can use a swimsuit top with this device for modesty purposes. The towel's cooling power can easily be 'recharged' water-wise every hour or so.

Plugging leaks. If hot air is leaking into the house from outside, plugging those leaks could be helpful. Even stuffing newspaper in them can work.

Rechargeable thermal mass batteries. A good-sized block of 'thermal mass' you can regularly move between the coldest and hottest spots in your house could help. That is, you keep the mass in the coldest area when unneeded (so it gets chilly), and move it to the hottest as required (where it can then soak up some heat).

Some homes incorporate this into their construction. Thermal mass could be a stack of bricks on a wheeled dolly. Basically the bigger/heavier your stack, the more capacity it offers (but the harder it'll be to move around-- make sure it's something all relevant household members can move without strain!). Bricks with holes in them roughly aligned to work together (with the stack assembly allowing breathing/ventilation from both above and below the stack) would likely absorb and emit heat faster. And of course, the more extremely cold you get your mass, the more powerful its cooling power-- but even the rich rarely use powered refrigeration on their thermal masses.

Strategic air flow changes. If you must have open windows/doorways, try to direct outside air flow FROM the coolest side of the house (usually shadowed side) TO the hottest side, as the air moves through your home's interior.

If you have a basement/cellar and a second floor or attic with windows/doors you can open, you can try setting up an air flow FROM the basement level TO the top floor opening, for some beneficial cooling. Strategically placed fans might help here-- but often if you've got any multi-story height involved natural breezes and the physics of heat convection may take care of things all by themselves.

You WILL need to have some windows or doors in your basement level open for this too, most likely.

Watch out for flying bug invasions in all this though! Hopefully you'll have screens!

If the outside is considerably hotter than your inside, stepping outside for 10 minutes or so every hour or two may help the inside feel lots cooler to you when you return.

Battle high humidity. Finding ways to keep the humidity indoors lower than it is outdoors can also make your home feel cooler. One of the things which can increase indoor humidity (and so can be bad for cooling) is water misting (showers). Or appliance-related clothes drying, if somehow the exhaust is leaking into the home before making it all the way outdoors.

Of course, it can be difficult to maintain a different humidity indoors than out, if your home isn't well-sealed and insulated.

I'll try to add more info here as I get the chance.

Other possibly helpful links include:

Tricks to Keep Your House Cool this Summer

My air conditioning coils keep freezing up what is causing this?

"The most frequent cause of freezing is a lack of airflow. This can be from dirty air filters, which choke the airflow to the evaporator, a blocked return air or too many supply air dampers being closed. Other less common causes are under sized or poorly designed ductwork, dirty evaporator coil, excessive dirt built-up on the fan blades, broken fan belt or a failed fan motor. "

-- What causes the Evaporator to freeze on an Air conditioning system.?

something about frozen air conditioner parts

Goodier Builders Homeowners Manual - Air Conditioning

Tune Up Your Air Conditioner

Tips to keep you Air Conditioning going in Extreme Heat

Make your own air conditioner

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All text above not explicitly authored by others copyright © 2007 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.
Anything you see below this point was put there by a content thief who stole this page and posted it on their own server.