We have a pretty good battle going on in our household, one that I didn’t really expect. It’s between the king of the jungle, Tuxedo himself, and an unexpected adversary, the circular fan. I guess I have no one to blame but myself, it’s a story as old as time. Or at least as old as 2015, i.e. The Avengers: Age of Ultron. I created the conflict through my own selfish desires to have a shelf to put our fan on during the summer.
Here’s the deal, Allyson and I do not have air conditioning. While this is more common here in Colorado, I would venture to say we are in the minority as more and more homes upgrade to central a/c or evaporative coolers. Now you may think we are crazy, but with some planning, effort, and *gasp* sacrifice, it becomes possible to go without a/c. One key to going without air conditioning is having a well insulated home….
Unfortunately, we do not have one of those. Our house was built in the 50s and in certain areas it shows. When I opened up some walls and outlets to rerun all of the electrical in our house (post coming), I found that there is exactly 0 insulation in our walls. And that’s not it, not only is there 0 insulation, but the gap between our interior drywall and the exterior brick is narrow, I’m guessing only 1.5” wide (not uncommon as I’ve found out in brick homes). What this means is that if I want to insulate our house better, which I do one day, it will present a limited benefit and may not end up making sense financially. Although insulating will help our comfort during the summer and our heating bill/energy use during the winter.
Despite our home not having any insulation in the walls, there are ways that we can improve the insulation of our home before working on adding blown in insulation. One way is to make sure the windows are as energy efficient as possible. This can take a couple of forms, the first and foremost (also the most expensive), to install energy efficient new windows. New windows with special coatings or gas filled panes can reduce heat gain and reduce heat loss respectively depending on your climate. Luckily for us a number of our windows were updated prior to us buying the home, although there are a couple more that I will update in the future. A cheaper way to help reduce heat gain in the summer is to add window treatments. When we moved in there were no window treatments, so last year we bought shades for every window, making sure to spend a little bit extra to get the double celled shades that keep out more sunlight (heat) and add slightly more insulation. It’s also important to double check all of the windows and doors for proper weather sealing, adding caulk or insulation as necessary to close any air gaps where cool air can escape during the summer and warm air can escape during the winter.
There are other, more extreme features that are key to energy efficient (and therefore more comfortable without a/c) homes, but I certainly can’t add them on this home. It is a dream of mine to be able to buy some land someday and build my own energy efficient home, including features like south facing windows for the winter, eaves for the summer, lots of thermal mass, plenty of insulation, and some solar panels for all of our power. However, for now I will settle for Tuxedo’s mortal enemy, a good fan.
During the summer months it is extremely important for Allyson and I to cool our house down as much as possible during the night. A key way to do that is to create a sort of wind tunnel effect, where we blow the hot air out of the house and cool air from outside replaces it. It is key to point the fan out of the window, as that sucks the hot air out of the house and allows cool air to replace it. When set up properly, it is possible to create a sort of horizontal chimney effect, where you get a good cross breeze going. I’m still experimenting with the best configuration of open vs. closed windows for cross breeze in our house (often walking around with a match to try and track the airflow), but having a fan blowing out of our back laundry room window seems to create the best airflow in the house.
Last year, I used a pretty jank setup to get our fan pointed out of the window. For the longest time it was set on our drying rack, but that was obviously not rated for the weight of the fan.
Then I stacked it on top of stools and overturned containers, again not the best system.
Finally, I decided it was time to build a shelf. This was a relatively straight-forward process. I cut two right triangles and mounted them using a hinge on the inside part of the piece. I then used pocket hole screws to connect 6 small cedar scrap boards together that I had left over from a previous project. Using two more hinges, I attached the board to the wall right under the window. Now, I have a system where I can raise and lower the platform as necessary to place the fan on during the summer to blow directly out of the window.
Which brings us to Tuxedo. This cat loves the outdoors and loves to jump up into the window anytime it is open. Recently, he jumped onto the window sill while the shelf was not raised and went right through the screen. While absolutely hilarious, we’d like to prevent this from happening again, so we’ve started leaving the shelf up all of the time to give him a wider landing strip.
He loves all of the new access he gets, but unfortunately has to contend with a fan when the window is open at night. Like every cat, I’m sure he is plotting a way to kill us and escape, so I’m sure he’s just added the fan as another reason to carry out his plan.