A guest on the most recent RationalUrbanism Podcast, born-again urbanist and friend, Jim Bouchard, recently noted the anniversary of the invention of air conditioning on his Facebook page. That spurred me into updating a post from last year in which I detailed some of the energy and sustainability related improvements I have made to my house because, so far this summer, we haven’t had to resort to using, or even installing, air conditioning.
To start with, last summer I climbed up onto my basically flat membrane roof and painted it white using paint I purchased at a great “re-use” home improvement store called “Eco Building Bargains”. Walking with bare feet on a parking lot near my ancestral home I learned at a very young age that the painted white lines could provide a cool respite from the scalding black asphalt. Overall the job was easy, but I didn’t expect the morning dew to be such a problem, as I had hoped to start and complete the job in the time after sunrise but before the sun began baking me and the roof. To even come close to doing that I ended up effectively washing my roof by hand using old towels and waiting for an hour or so while the remaining moisture evaporated away!
Last autumn we had nine of the thirty windows in our home refurbished. The nine were in the worst condition and were located at key positions within the house as far as air flow was (is) concerned. While the restoration of the windows did improve their overall ability to seal, what has been more important is the ease with which they close, open, and stay open. Some of the windows did not open at all, or, because they could not lock and were on the lower level of the home, were permanently screwed shut.
Add to this the purchase of just two new window treatments and the repositioning of others along with their strategic use, and thoughtful use of large industrial grade fans at night, and the house gets cool and stays cool all day. So much so, in fact, that my wife was informed by a visitor during a local historic home tour who was unaware that she was speaking with the owner of the home, that the not existent air conditioning was working because “she felt it”.
Before I purchased the home six years ago the law firm which occupied this building used nine room air conditioners while using three of a possible four floors. The summer after moving in I was using six over three floors. We are now using all four floors, including what was “the-nearly-uninhabitable-in-the-summertime-even-with-AC” fourth floor, without calling upon the 112 year old invention of Willis Carrier at all, and this in the middle of a July which has averaged up to three degrees above normal in my area.