Whether it’s an unexpected heatwave or the dog days of summer, blazing temperatures can be an immense problem. There are many ways of dealing with the heat, from air conditioning to a dip in the water, but they aren’t all feasible for everyone. Of the methods that are available to most people, some of the nuances aren’t immediately obvious. To help you beat the heat in the most comfortable way possible, here is an examination of two simple questions often asked here at A-Plus Air. The answers may surprise you.
How much do fans really help?
On the surface, using fans may seem like a no-brainer. However, if you know a bit about physics, then you might also know that fans increase the total amount of heat in a closed environment. They move air around, but they aren’t actually taking heat out of the system. In fact, moving air takes power that’s going to end up adding to the heat in your home. Understandably, this can muddy the waters when it comes to determining the value of fans in a situation where you’ve already got the house closed up.
The short answer is that fans are often quite worth it when strategically placed. Yes, they contribute to the overall heat, but that effect is relatively negligible over the course of half a day or so, the amount of time that you absolutely need to keep your house closed up. Once it’s night, you can open up and that buildup of heat will be meaningless as the temperature quickly equalizes between the inside and outside of your home.
You’ll note that this only applies when you have the option of opening up your home at night. If it’s a brutal heatwave that doesn’t even abate at night and you need to keep the house closed for days on end, then running a fan can be a very questionable decision. It may improve your quality of life in the short term, but you can end up in a situation where you feel hotter with the fan running than you would have if you never turned the fan on at all.
The second component to consider here is the placement of fans. Running one that’s targeted directly at you can result in great bang for your energy buck, but it’s probably not ideal to run a comprehensive system of portable fans to stimulate air flow throughout your house. It may seem like it’s helping, but the temperature will steadily rise and your air conditioner will need to work overtime if it’s running. Ultimately, it’s best to focus the use of fans on rooms that are currently occupied.
Should you cover your windows?
Keeping a cool home essentially boils down to separating the inside environment from the outside. This obviously means measures like keeping doors and windows closed to eliminate airflow, but it also means minimizing the impact of solar heat. The real question is just how much you are really accomplishing by covering up your windows during a heatwave.
For starters, consider the basic rule of thumb for solar energy: 1 kW per square meter per hour. If you’ve got a window that’s 4 square meters, then it’s going to get about 4 kW per hour as long as it’s facing the sun. This can obviously change dramatically with window orientation, cloud cover, local topography, and your latitude, but we’ll consider the average case for now.
If such a window were uncovered and exposed directly to the sun for 6 hours, then that’s 24 kW or around 82,000 BTU, the unit commonly used in air conditioner measurements. If that sounds like a lot, and it really is. Most portable or window air conditioners anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 BTU per hour. This means that the window in question would tax such a unit past maximum capacity. A central unit would be able to handle the strain much more comfortably, but you don’t want to be running your AC at full power just because a window is uncovered.
Fortunately, the energy of the sun isn’t locked directly in a duel with your air conditioner. At several steps along the way, the sunlight will lose significant portions of its power. To start with, some of the light will be reflected off the window instead of traveling through. Some light will also be absorbed by the window, heating it up directly. Of the light that continues, it will bounce around your house and some will inevitably find its way back out through a window.
What this ultimately means is that your air conditioner will only be taxed a fraction of the earlier figures. Your window also probably won’t endure direct sunlight for six straight hours every day. However, you also need to consider all the windows in your house and add them up. The result can be significant.
In order to reduce the amount of solar heat that enters your home, consider adding barriers to your windows. Adding them on the outside of your home would be most effective, but also aesthetically offensive. A good set of thick drapes on the inside can be effective as well. If you go for lighter shades, they can even reflect some heat back outside.
So what should you do?
As far as fans are concerned, you should simply be aware of the cumulative effects of fans in closed environments. If you’ve got the house opened up in general or if you can air it out at night, then running a fan during the day isn’t going to be a problem. However, you should think carefully before running a fan inside when you won’t be able to open up for the foreseeable future. If you are running fans, make sure that you’re only focusing them where needed.
When it comes to covering your windows, it’s a good idea in general. Blocking that heat from getting inside will both make your home a little cooler and reduce the strain on your air conditioner, if you have one. However, an uncovered window or two probably won’t add up to a huge burden, especially if they don’t receive all that much direct sunlight during the day.
aplusair.ca Heating & Air Conditioning wants to help you make informed decisions when it comes to the comfort and enjoyment of your home. With expert staff and second-to-none service, they can provide all your residential and commercial heating and cooling solutions. For more information, visit www.aplusair.ca.