Dealing with the Heat

June 27, 2008 at 11:01 am Leave a comment

Yesterday, I signed on to Crunchy Chicken’s Keep yer Cool summer-long challenge. The idea is to post in the comments to her post a pledge on what you are willing to do to eliminate or minimize your air-conditioning use over the summer. The Piedmont house is not one of those great old farmhouses built to structural advantage in hot weather. Instead it’s a plain, one story ranch with a 600 ft. “great room” tacked on. The great room is all about windows — there are 13 windows, three glass doors, and two big skylights. It’s a really neat feature of the house in general. I have often thought that sitting in the great room is very similar to sitting outside — except fewer bugs and the ability to climate control.

Oh wait. For that reason and others, going cold turkey on the a/c didn’t seem reasonable or prudent. Besides being kinda unbearably hot I have heard that mold and mildew can be big problems in this part of the country without at least minimal a/c. I don’t know if that is the case as I’ve never really had the nerve to go completely without it and I don’t have that nerve now either. I pledged that I wouldn’t cut on the a/c until the internal temperature reached 85F. I also gave myself the out of using the a/c at night to ensure restful sleep.

On day one (yesterday), I got serious about window screens. The X is a big animal lover and at one time the Piedmont house was home to about 8-10 cats and 3-4 dogs. Those cats did a number on the window screens all over the Piedmont house. When they were trying to get one’s attention to petition to come indoors (they were all indoor/outdoor pets), they would launch themselves up onto the window screens and literally hang there either until one of us let them in or they fell back down again. Over time, most of the window screens on the house were shredded and/or fell off the windows. In those days, it didn’t matter much as the X is the queen of climate control. Our thermostat would switch on some certain day directly from “heat” to “air-conditioning.” Our windows never opened.

So, I was left with a house with windows that could not be opened without hosting the considerable variety of winged and crawling insects native to this territory. In the first year after the X moved out, I researched options and found, to my delight, that it was possible to obtain all of the necessary materials for fabricating window screens at the local home center. And it wasn’t even that hard. I built a few screens, but then I got caught up in other activities and that project languished. A year or so ago, I found a cache of original window screens that I had saved at some point but I didn’t find time to fit them to their proper windows. Even though I was not as extravagant a climate-control queen as the X, I still found that the “season of the open window” was not extremely long. Perhaps two-two and a half months in the spring and one-two months in the fall. During those times, I regulated the air-flow with the three strategically placed windows with screens I had fixed up — one in the great room, one in the kitchen, one in my bedroom. I had one in the Kid’s room also but he normally declined to have his window open.

Yesterday, spurred by the challenge, I went out and took a look at that cache of window screens. I was able to quickly install three (one in the great room, one in the living room, and one in my bedroom) which needed only minor repair. I situated the one in the great room to encourage a cross-breeze. I turned on both ceiling fans in the great room — even the one that makes the clunky noise. I waited and monitored temperatures with my indoor/outdoor thermometer. I know that the appropriate thing in the summer is to let the night air in and then shut the house like a hermetically sealed compartment during the day, but I had not started the night before and I thought the breeze would be good. Also, somewhat perversely, I wanted to know just what my 85F pledge was going to feel like. In some sense, I wanted to start my summer with the house “heated up” to that point.

It was a hot one yesterday, so that did not take long. The temperatures outside kept climbing. The interior temps rose more slowly, but steadily. After my initial burst of activity with the window screens, I settled down in front of my laptop to do my office work in the kitchen. I found that if I stayed seated and not very active, the heat was certainly bearable. I kept thinking I should go up to the attic to retrieve a box fan that was stored up there. But I kept not feeling the need to do so.

About mid-morning, a friend emailed me with an invitation to join her and her son at the pool that afternoon. So after I picked the Kid up from camp, got the worst of the mud and clay hosed off of him and got our swimming gear together, we joined our friends at this really cool community pool that was new to us. We spent the afternoon and early evening there. When we got back to the Piedmont house, things were starting to cool off. I made a quick dinner of pesto, we hung out for a bit, and then I got the Kid settled for the night. At first, I opened up the windows in my bedroom and tried to deal with the cooling of the night air. But around 1:30am, I cranked it up and slept well.

This morning is an office morning where I physically visit my workplace so I left all the windows closed to — as much as possible — seal in the gains from the overnight a/c. I’m thinking about blinds and/or drapes. And maybe a couple of screen doors for the great room. It’s interesting to me how a slightly artificial “challenge” like this seems to really set me moving to pursue energy-saving strategies I should have been investigating all along.

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Entry filed under: Piedmont.

Acceptance, Judgement, Mercy Day Two – wherein I sleep with the windows open!

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