If you don’t have air conditioning like most of Seattle, what’s the best way to cool your home?
Home thermodynamics is top of mind for KUOW listener Adam Graham-Silverman, as temperatures heat up in the region. His family sleeps on the second floor of their craftsman house in Green Lake, so he has been dabbling in the fine art of fan placement — to little avail.
“How, scientifically, can you best move air around to actually cool the upstairs of your house?” Graham-Silverman asked KUOW.
Open your basement door and suck the cool air up through the house.
In homes with multiple levels, create negative pressure by sticking a fan in the window pointing out.
“You want to pull the hot air out of the house,” said Carl Raben, weatherization supervisor for the City of Seattle. He oversees the city’s program that helps low-income people improve their homes against heat and cold.
Even though our highs are lower than our neighbors on the other side of the Cascades, summer heat can still be uncomfortable for the majority of us who don’t have air-conditioning.
Raben recommends making your home like a thermos: Keep it well-insulated so the heat stays out during the summer and in during the winter.
No basement? Don’t worry. Be proactive.
Window blinds, trees, and solar shades can help block the sun.
At night, if possible, sleep with your windows open and point the fans in to capture cool air.
“Get up in the morning, close everything down,” Raben said. Close and cover the windows. Even turn off lights and unplug electronics you don’t use, because those can generate a surprising amount of heat.
About 1 p.m. or 2 p.m., start your air circulation system. Open your basement door, turn on a fan upstairs and point it out the window to draw air through the house. A basement furnace can work too – as long as you can turn the heating element off.
“Don’t wait until it gets hot again,” Raben said.
The key is keeping your body temperature low from the start, as well as ventilating your home, said Ben Pelkey, who manages Puget Sound Energy’s energy advisors. You can even turn on kitchen exhaust fans and bathroom fans 15 minutes every hour to draw hot air out of your home, he said.
The kind of blinds you use can also make a difference, Pelkey said.
“If you’ve got curtains that allow light to penetrate through, then that’s going to allow more ultraviolet light to come into the space and it’ll probably be a bit warmer,” he said.
If you want to take it one step further, install fans in your attic to cool the house, Pelkey said, as attic air can reach as high as 140 degrees.
If all else fails, don’t forget the joys of a cold shower.