Summer weather is on its way to the East End, and with it the question of how to keep your home cool and comfortable while not sending electric use through the roof. Bill Shea of William J. Shea Electric is here with his answers.
The Question: Hey, Bill. With the high cost of electricity on Long Island, is there anything I can do to cool down my house besides air conditioning to make it feel cooler and save some money at the same time ?
The Answer from Bill Shea of William J. Shea Electric: Absolutely and quite simple. Below I have a few methods to do exactly what you ask. I only use my A/C on extremely hot and humid days by using these methods:
1: Attic fans. During the summer, as the sun radiates heat onto your roof, your roof’s shingles or tile become very hot. This heat is transferred through the roof and in turn heats up the air inside your attic. If the hot air stays inside your attic, the heat from this air will eventually enter your home.
While attic insulation slows this process, it does not eliminate the heat transfer process entirely. If your attic is not very well insulated, it will do very little to stop the heat from getting through. Additionally, a hot attic stays hot long after the sun goes down, so the process of heat transfer into your home never really ends.
By removing the hot air from your attic, the process of heat transfer into your home is minimized. The less attic heat that is transfer into your home, the less your air conditioner will need to work. If your air conditioner unit doesn’t need to run as much to keep your home cool, you save energy and money.
2 : Unlike air conditioners, fans only move air—they do not directly change its temperature. Therefore ceiling fans that have a mechanism for reversing the direction in which the blades rotate (most commonly an electrical switch on the side of the unit) can help in both heating and cooling.
In summer, the fan’s direction of rotation should be set so that air is blown downward (usually counter-clockwise from beneath). The blades should lead with the upturned side as they spin. The breeze created by a ceiling fan speeds the evaporation of perspiration on human skin, which makes the body’s natural cooling mechanism much more efficient. Since the fan works directly on the body, rather than by changing the temperature of the air, during the summer it is a waste of electricity to leave a ceiling fan on when no one is in a room.
In winter, ceiling fans should be set to turn the opposite direction (usually clockwise; the blades should spin with the downward turned side leading) and on a low speed. Air naturally stratifies—that is, warmer air rises to the ceiling while cooler air sinks. Unfortunately, this means it is colder on or near the floor where human beings spend most of their time. A ceiling fan, with its direction of rotation set so that air is drawn upward, pulls up the colder air below, forcing the warmer air nearer the ceiling to move down to take its place, without blowing a stream of air directly at the occupants of the room. This action works to even out the temperature in the room, making it cooler nearer the ceiling, but warmer nearer the floor. Thus the thermostat in the area can be set a few degrees lower to save energy, while maintaining the same level of comfort.
It is important to run the fan at a low speed to minimize the wind-chill effect described above.
An additional use of ceiling fans is coupling them with an air conditioning units. Through-the-wall/through-the-window air conditioning units typically found in rented properties in North America usually have both the tasks of cooling the air inside the room and circulating it.
Provided the ceiling fan is properly sized for the room in which it is operating, its efficiency of moving air far exceeds that of an air conditioning unit—therefore, for peak efficiency, the air conditioner should be set to a low fan setting and the ceiling fan should be used to circulate the air.
3 : Whole-house fans are high-capacity fans mounted in a central hallway in the first-floor ceilings of single-story homes and in the top-floor ceilings of multiple-story houses. They draw cool outside air into a home through open windows. The air flows through the house and is vented out through the attic. Whole-house fans bring huge quantities of cooler, nighttime air into a home.
Whole-house fans are used in a variety of climates, from moderate ones where cooling demands are low, to desert areas with hot days and cool nights. They’re even helpful in hot, humid climates such as the southeastern United States, where they can be used in the spring and early fall, when cooling demands are lower.
Whole-house fans are typically run early in the morning and in the evening, when outside temperatures fall below indoor temperatures. You can also use them to cool your home during the day if you have a cool, dry and non-musty basement. Warm outside air is drawn in through basement windows, then is cooled as it passes through this naturally cool underground space.
The air then flows up the basement stairs into the main living areas and is vented through the attic. Be sure there are no toxic fumes or radon in the basement, and that it is free of mold; otherwise, this can be an unhealthy strategy. And you don’t want to leave windows open in areas at risk for break-ins.
By using these methods in part or all three in a complete system will save you money and keep you cool as a cucumber!!
Have more questions about keeping your home cool this summer, or other electrical issues? You can contact William J. Shea Electric at 631-668-1600 or or visit their website at www.williamjsheaelectric.com.