Part 1: Quick and easy home cooling alternatives
Recently I met up with a group of friends in a park for a BBQ. We were using the built in council BBQ and everything was taking a long time to cook because of a stiff breeze that was blowing across the park which was taking the heat away from the hot plate. If we’d have had a lid to put on the BBQ keeping the breeze off it, it would have got hotter faster and cooked everything far more quickly.
Homes are a bit like that too. We go out during the day and leave the house securely locked up. Over the course of a hot summer’s day the air inside our home gets hotter and hotter, unable to circulate and mix with the breeze outside the home. As a result we come home to a very hot and stuffy house.
Solution 1: Air conditioning
A lot of people confronted with this situation will reach for the air conditioner remote and switch it on to cool their home. Now this tactic works but it takes a lot of time and at today’s power prices cost’s a fair bit of money. And that’s because the air inside your home has had all day to get hot. Now you’re trying to cool it instantly by pumping cold air in through your air conditioning unit. That cold air is running straight into the hot air that has nowhere to go; as a result it takes quite a while for the air conditioning to cool the hot air already trapped inside your home.
Now this really is the hard way to cool a home. Let me give you an example that better explains the point I am trying to make …
If you have ever parked your car outside in the sun for a few hours on a hot summer’s day you will know that when you open the door the heat inside your car is dangerously hot. So do you jump in and switch the air conditioning on flat out? Well I know I do, but I also wind the windows down and start driving to allow the hot air to escape while the cold air blows in through the air con.
If you’ve never done this before I urge you to try it. Within minutes your deadly hot car interior will be pleasantly cool and on the way to being cold. In just a few minutes the hot air is gone and you can put your windows up and relax in the comfort of your climate controlled environment.
So what’s this got to do with homes? Well you might think that you’ve guessed where I’m going with this but you might not be 100% correct.
If you guessed that I am suggesting that you open up your windows and doors and let the hot air escape then you’re partially correct. But it’s not as simple as just opening a window and hoping the hot air will blow away.
Solution 2: Home exhaust fans
You see the car example works best because the moving car sucks air in from the outside pushing the hot air out. But you’re house can’t move, so what happens on those days when there is little breeze and therefore little air movement?
Well for most people it’s a matter of waiting for the overworked air conditioner to slowly cool your home down, but there is another option.
There are a number of companies that produce natural home cooling systems that are based around large fans and vents. These fans are designed to suck rather than blow.
Typically these fans are mounted in the roof cavity. Directly underneath them are metal louvers that open up to allow air to be sucked up from the interior of your home. Essentially they work by sucking in air through your windows (you need to open your windows first) and then blowing it out through exhaust vents built into your eaves or placed on your roof. In effect these massive fans create the same effect as a moving car and can quickly replace the hot stale air (as well as any odours) from inside your home.
These systems claim to be able to naturally cool a home without the need for air conditioning on even the hottest, most still days where there is no breeze in sight. I personally think that might be a tad extreme and that on the very worst of days you might still need to switch on the air conditioner, but I’m sure these systems do a great job on most days and particularly at night.
And for those people who hate waking up with a sore throat from having the air conditioning on all night these systems offer a viable alternative, although you would probably want security screens fitted given that you do need to leave some windows open to allow the system to draw the outside air in.
Most of these systems have a very low running cost, certainly under that of most reverse cycle or ducted air conditioners, but what if there was a way to draw the heat out of your home without needing to run anything electrical at all?
Well there are a number of ways to do this that we will look at in part 2 of our search for effective home cooling solutions.