When I was living in North Texas the cost of keeping our home just livable was outrageous. The amount of money spent monthly to cool our small home easily surpassed what we paid up in Minnesota to heat our home through the long winters. When we returned to Northern Minnesota the thought of paying year around to either heat, or cool our home seemed a bit much to bear. We started looking for alternatives.
We don’t see that many hot and humid days usually, though July and August can see a stretch of a few days at a time that will have us sticky and uncomfortable. For this short time of discomfort installing central air seemed like a poor way to invest our home improvement budget. I started looking for ways to cool the house without breaking the bank.
Our home is situated so that the front, or street side faces south west. In the late afternoon and early evening the sun comes right into the Living Room and that area of the house becomes the hot spot. To the other extreme the Master Bedroom is at the rear of the house and is almost always shaded by trees.
To maintain air flow through the house we installed two side by side 8″ box fans in one of the front (Southwest) windows. Pointed out to exhaust the hot air out of the house. We installed 1/4 inch plywood filler pieces to seal up the leftover space around the fans and lowered the window to the top of the fan. This prevented just circling outside air around and through the fans. With a decent effort to seal up those gaps the fan is actually taking hot air out of the house.
Throughout the house the remaining windows are left closed. In the Master Bedroom one window will be fitted with a similar arrangement, two 8″ box fans. Only this time the fans are pointed inward to draw cool shaded air into the house.
This effort will allow cool shaded air to circulate through the house to be exhausted after it passes through the warmer areas of the building. In our situation this air flow is enough to assure we have cool air in the bedroom allowing for a comfortable night’s sleep even in the warmest evenings.
In the desert Southwest where there is little to no humidity in the air, air conditioners are relatively inefficient ways to cool a house. Operating on the principle of squeezing the water out of the air to cool, with very low moisture content in the air there is little benefit from trying to dry the air further. Instead they use swamp coolers.
A swamp cooler is nothing more then a fan to mover air through a water soaked medium allowing you to add water to the air. This raises the ambient temperatures noticeably and is usually enough to make the home quite comfortable.
You can operate a fan like a swamp cooler by hanging a porous wet towel in front of a fan. Have the bottom sitting in a shallow pan of water and the effect will be similar to a swamp cooler.
Ceiling fans are a great way to keep air moving and in effect keep a cool breeze moving through a room or home. Having one located in areas where people congregate as well as directly over the bed in the bedrooms will help keep you comfortable without the high cost of an air conditioner.
Electrical fans are a very cheap and cost effective way to keep your home cool and comfortable. The amount of energy you use to operate a half dozen fans is nothing compared to the cost of running a central air conditioning system. Moving the fans to where they’re needed to maximize their effectiveness makes a lot more sense then cooling the whole house at extreme expense throughout the summer months.
We do have air conditioners, two small 5,000 Btu window units. Set in place for the summer, they are reserved for the half dozen times a year that the fans just don’t cut the mustard. Being a bit warm during the day can be tolerated, but when it comes to sleeping nothing matches being cool and comfortable. What few times we make use of these air conditioners is hardly reflected on our electric bill. By using fans 99% of the time our monthly electric bill in the summer averages about $24. Down in Texas running the central A/C around the clock used to cost us well over $100 a month. That was much worse then our winter heating bill is, even up north in Minnesota where we see -30 below.