House cooling basic and fans
While hiding out in air-conditioned movie theatres and making sure your new BFF has a pool might be wonderful short-term solutions to beating the heat, they ain’t gonna get you through summer’s hot, sweaty nights. Now, before you cave and crank up the a/c, consider some ways of keeping cool without giving the planet a fever.
Window Dressing: Sure, windows let in all that pretty summer light, but 40% of your home’s hellish temperatures come in through those windows. If you work your windows right, they can be a cooling ally.
- Leave your windows open at night and shut them early in the morning. This will keep the hot air out as temperatures outside climb. No need to let a scorching afternoon gust in.
- Draw all the curtains. Without a good set of blinds you’re basically cooking your home in a deep fryer. Honeycomb blinds are more effective than most at blocking out rays. Just stay away from PVC blinds, which can erode and create a harmful lead dust (especially scary if you have young kids sucking on them).
- Shut ’er down. These are a bit more of an investment, but outdoor shutters and awnings keep the sun’s rays from touching the glass.
Honestly, you don’t really need an air conditioner if you’ve got air moving across your skin. It’s in your grade 9 biology textbook. A breeze helps dry your sweat, letting your body cool itself like a good circulatory system should. And besides using 90% less electricity than air conditioners, fans also let you enjoy the seasons for all they’re worth. Do you really want old man winter around 365 days a year? No? Well, they say the next ice age will be kick-started by global warming, so let’s try to prevent both by keeping the fans on and the a/c off.
Fan Features to Consider:
|• Get the right fan for your needs. Don’t get a jumbo turbo fan for your tiny bedroom (you’ll just end up with a sore throat from the gale force winds). Stick it at the foot of your basement stairs instead (if you have a basement) so it can shove cool air from subterranean levels up to the main floor. It’s my dad’s trick and it works like a charm. Speaking of turbo fans, the ultra aerodynamic Turbo-Aire purportedly delivers 100% more air at 300% greater efficiency than the competition while being “whisper quiet at all speeds” and well reviewed (available through Canadian Tire).|
|• Energy Star ceiling fans move air up to 50% more efficiently than standard models. If your ceiling fan has a light, make sure it’s an energy-saving compact fluorescent bulb (one that’s suitable for enclosed fixtures, if need be).|
FANS COOL PEOPLE, NOT ROOMS
If no one’s in the room, flick the fan off. It’s not like your furniture appreciates the breeze.
Solar-Powered Fans: I’m still waiting for the day when every fan is fed by solar panels propped in our windows. Until that day comes, renewable energy junkies who can’t afford to mack out their roof with panels will have to head online and track down solar-powered fans from sites like solarwholesales.org. Can’t tell you how well they work, though.
Reversible Window Fans: These fans rock since they can help create a mucho-refreshing cross-current by pulling air from one window and pushing it out another.
Whole-House Fan Systems: These systems aren’t all that common in Canada, but they should be. They use about a tenth as much power as air conditioners but send cooling gusts of air throughout your house in seconds flat. They’re especially useful if your summers are not outrageously humid, though my in-laws have one in muggy southern Ontario and it really does push out the day’s hot stagnant air in a flash. These babies actually suck air from open windows and pull it up through your home into a vented attic. They’re ideal for use at night or in the early morning, when the air outside is cooler. The only hitch is they actually contribute to heat loss in the winter, so you’ll definitely want to install an insulated cover over the fan when it gets cold outside. Check out broan.ca or Calgary’s canadawholehomefans.ca. If you’re handy, you could plausibly install it yourself.
Attic Fans: These sometimes get confused with whole-house fans because they both vent hot air out of your attic. But that’s all attic fans do. There’s no refreshing wind created in living areas, just the cooling that occurs when your attic isn’t so hot you could broil burgers on the ceiling. They’re cheaper than whole-house fans, and for about $500 you can get a super-duper cool solar-powered attic fan from sunrisesolar.net. Again, you can install it yourself if you’re good with your hands.