Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cooling the House in the Summer

We are still occasionally getting snow on the ground, but on days when it doesn't snow, the house can reach 75 F without any help from the furnace. We have a great south-facing exposure, which will be handy in the winter, but makes me pretty nervous about the upcoming summer months. The house does not have a central air conditioning system installed. After three years in Texas, Venezuela and Abu Dhabi, I don't like living in warm climates with no air conditioning.

Unfortunately, air conditioning is expensive, both in up-front purchasing and installation costs and in year-after-year operating costs. I'm not a big fan of that, either.

So what are the options?
  • Suffer quietly through the summer without any type of cooling (not going to happen).
  • Refurbish or replace the gigantic, gross and rusty swamp cooler hanging off the house's west face.
  • Get a window AC unit for the master bedroom - I kinda like this idea, and there is a cool "smart" window AC unit due out in May.
  • Shell out $5000+ for a new central air system, and pay ~$200/month extra in electricity.
  • Install a whole-house fan in the attic.

The more I think about it, the more I like the last idea. A whole house fan resides at the highest ceiling in the house, venting hot air into (and out through) the attic and drawing cool air up from the basement. The house I lived in the last two years of college had a whole-house fan, and I remember it working rather well during the muggy Michigan summers. Having someone else do the installation seems to run between $1500 and $2000 all-in, and I bet my brother-in-law and I could do it for significantly less. Add some automation to make it a little bit smart about what time of day it runs automatically, and I think this could be a winner.

(I have to admit, I still like the idea of a smart window AC unit. It has wi-fi. And a phone app. It's aimed right at my weak points!)

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