Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Keeping the house cool

How's your weather? Getting hot? It's heading that way here! I hate to run the air conditioner, so I find ways to avoid it as long as possible. Unless we're having a really hot spell, I can wait until afternoon to turn it on. That's because the back of the house has high windows that don't let in direct sunshine in the summer and because there is a very large evergreen tree at the southeast corner that shades most of the house until the sun gets into the western portion.

Using just those two things can make a difference in the temperature of a home. Did you know that there can be as much as 20 degrees difference in the shade of a tree and in the sun? That's a lot! If you could drop the inside temperature from 90 to 70,(or from 100 to 80) you could do without an air conditioner altogether.

There is a tree - well, two trees - growing on the west side of the house where the hot sun shines in the afternoon, but they're not nearly as big or as thick as the one in back. It will be awhile before they'll do serious shading, so I am careful to keep the curtains closed against the sun and to avoid any dark colored furnishings where they could absorb the heat.

Other ideas I've used:

Fans for air circulation. Just air moving will make it seem cooler.
Stay hydrated. Water, water, water. Avoid alcohol.
Open the house at night and close it tight during the hot hours of the day. I watch the thermometer to know when to open and close the house.
Eat light foods. Avoid heavy meats and sauces and stick with salads and other light foods.
Daydream. Think about cool places or times.

I use many other ways to stay cool as long as I can. That keeps money in my pocket just a little bit longer!


  1. Great ideas! Attic fans, or all-house fans, are also great for pulling in cooler night air while flushing out the hot air that's accumulated in the house. We installed one a few years ago and have used it a lot. To flush out the house, we turn it on for only 5-10 minutes, and then shut it down and close the house back up so it doesn't really have to be in operation very long to be effective. They are VERY powerful!

    It's also a good way to get cooking smells out of a stuffy house and bring in fresh air. The flow can be controlled somewhat by which windows and doors you open (or leave closed) as the attic fan will really suck air in through those that are open creating quite a breeze!


  2. Great advice, Bette, thank you.

  3. Oh Pat, how I envy you. Here at "Life in West Houston" we are having a hot, humid summer. We can't live without our air conditioning. I look forward to the day when I arrive in Colorado as a retiree!

  4. Why wait until you retire? :) It does get hot here most summers, but it usually cools off at night so the house has a chance to cool down some.

  5. I live in a dry area that cools off at night, BUT I live in an old trailer with no insulation, no AC and no swamp cooler. But, as long as I manage the fans and windows, it stays cool.
    In high summer it can be 95-100 during the day and 55-65 at night.
    At dark, I open windows at each end and in the middle of the trailer and put in fans, blowing in one end and out the other (with the wind if there is any).
    I get up at about 4am, usually I wake up because I'm cold. Turn off the fans, take them out and close all windows and drapes.
    Before I leave for work or start my day on the weekend, I close off the door to the south room in the trailer and if it's going to be very hot and sunny, I put a car windshield-sunscreen in the south window.

    Generally when I get home from work it's still 20 or more degrees cooler in the house. If I can avoid turning on the stove, it will stay cool through the evening.
    If I must cook in the house, I try to do it just before bed so I can have the fans going.

    It takes some doing, but my electric bill is about 1/4 of what my non-AC neighbors pay, and about 1/10th that of the AC users.

  6. Jill, it sounds like you have it very much under control. A lower electric bill proves it.

  7. I live in AZ and HAVE to have some way to cool us off. 110 gets awful HOT! We have a old swamp cooler and we replaced all the parts last year. The prices were not too bad and we did get away with it cheap! Part of the reason is that a lot of ppl are getting more energy efficient a/c and retiring the swamp coolers but for me I use the swamp cooler for most of the summer and fans to circulate the cool air around. It is MUCH less expensive than using the A/C!

  8. Swamp coolers are great for dry climates like Arizona or much of the west and, as you said, they cost a lot less to operate than air conditioners. To create the effect in a small area without having to buy one, rig up a frame in front of a box fan that you can hang a wet towel on. If you can fasten the towel so it won't get sucked into the fan, you can put it behind it and that does a good job, too.

  9. I've never heard of a swamp cooler, but am getting educated reading these comments! It thrills me to see the resourcefulness and creativity of other people.


  10. Swamp cooler = evaporative cooler. Wikipedia has a good explanation of it: Evaporative cooler

  11. Nice article. That is a great idea about the trees. I agree about fans, and an attic fan really helps, but I hate everything about oscillating fans. I use one of those Homemedics air cleaners. It's quite (calming sound) and it really cools the air. I don't use it as a "cleaner" just a "cooler." I also keep the shades down during the hottest time of the day to keep the cool air in.

  12. I wonder how much the cost of a Homedic is in comparison to a regular fan?