Being on sabbatical has given me time to catch up on blogging about my projects. The frequency of posts will surely go back down when I go back to work.
While living ast my old house in Beaverton, my bedroom took forever to cool down on hot summer days. The ceiling fan didn’t do the trick as it just moved air around. What I need was to force the hot air out of the house.
When I was a kid, we put a fan in the door or window, but thinking back that didn’t seem like it’d be too effective. he fan needs to be sealed into the window.
Here’s a picture of the fan I use in my house here in Portland (click for a larger image):
It works very well and is essentially the same as a whole house fan, only cheaper and easier to install. Not as pretty though.
On the topic of cooling the house, there are two home improvement projects I recommend as the first ones that anyone should consider.
The first is an attic fan. I installed it myself and it’s about $150 in parts total. In most homes (vaulted ceilings being a notable exception) you have the ceiling of the top floor, insulation, attic space (even if unfinished) and then the roof. In the summertime, that attic space gets HOT. Even a concrete sidewalk can be hot if it cooks in the sun all day. Temps in the attic of 130 degrees is not unusual.
So think about it. right above your ceiling you have this bubble of hot air trying to push it’s way in. When the sun goes down, this bubble doesn’t just go away.
Here comes the attic fan to the rescue. The fan in installed on the roof and serves to pull the hot air out of the attic to be replaced with air from the outside. For most places this outside air is somewhere less than 130 degrees. The differential between the air in your bedroom and that in the attic is less and the insulation is better able to do its job. Also in the evening, when the outside air temp drops, you’ll get the benefit of this much quicker.
An attic fan is the first upgrade any homeowner should think about. You will see an IMMEDIATE difference.
A second upgrade is to add attic insulation. This is something most people can do themselves. In many homes, the attic doesn’t have any insulation at all, this was the case in my friend Kevin’s house. My 14 year old Beaverton house had lots of thin spots where they skimped on insulation. Go to Home Depot or Lowes and in the insulation dept, you’ll find bundles of insulation. Not the fiberglass batts, but the stuff you need a vacuum cleaner type device to install. Most stores will "rent" this device to you for free if you buy a minimum amount. In my own house, I was able to add about 12" of insulation to my attic for ~$150. Again, I saw an immediate improvement.
It’s a two person job. One to work the hose in the attic and the other to feed the bundles into the vacuum. Also, it makes a mess. Nothing good dusting and vacuuming (the normal household kind this time) won’t fix. Also, a good respirator is a must.
Two last notes. One: this is not the itchy fiberglass stuff. (though the new fiberglass doesn’t itch anymore either). Two, be careful in the attic. drywall will not hold you up. step only on the wooden 2x4s and 2x6s