Friday, June 18, 2010

Cheap air conditioning

Cooling off this summer is becoming a priority for most. Not so much for me because I live on Vancouver Island. A heat wave is 85F and it only lasts about one week every year. Most people don't have air conditioners here but the new house we are renting looks like it might get a little warm this summer, so I'm thinking of options. In the past, I've talked about using solar to cool the house. But I can't do that here because I rent. There are a few cheap options though:

1) Whole House Fan - A whole house fan is a powerful fan that is designed for ceiling mount and it sucks air from the house and pushes it into the attic. That, in turn, causes the attic air to be pushed out. So, if the windows in the house are open, then fresh air is sucked into the house and goes out through the attic. This has a cooling effect on the house.

But, being a renter, I can't cut a hole in the ceiling. Another option is to take a piece of plywood and cut a hole in it to mount the whole house fan in. I can size the plywood to fit in a window at one end of the house. Then with windows in other rooms open, the house will cool down. And I can take the fan with me when and if we move.

2) Swamp Cooler - A swamp cooler is designed for places that aren't humid. In fact, they only work in 60% or less humidity. Vancouver Island is very humid most of the year. But I checked some weather data and it turns out that during the summer, almost every day, the humidity drops to about 30 to 50% during the hottest time.

So, I could build a swamp cooler, many people do. All it is is a water reservoir with a wicking material and a fan that blows air across the wick. As the water evaporates it cools the air. But the other day I saw a humidifier in a thrift store and it was a only $8. I don't think I could build one for that cheap. It was the kind with a big cylindrical wick. (it has to be that kind, not just any humidifier) I'm guessing that it would easily cool down a medium size room. I'll do some tests over the next few weeks and blog about it.

One thing to think about it mold growing on the wicking material. So people have to clean them constantly or put a little bleach in the water. The bleach sounds a little harsh. A better idea is to add some homemade colloidal silver to the water reservoir. This will keep the water nice and clean. Although, the water will have to be added everyday, the silver doesn't need to be added every time. Just once a week is probably fine.



  1. I wonder if putting a silver coin in the water reservoir would work? I suspect you could also add hydrogen peroxide to the water, it would kill any critters and keep new ones from growing...


  2. @Wretha I like the silver coin idea.

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  4. In South and East Texas if a person can not afford A/C, these would work but it would still be uncomfortable until sun went down. As a young boy (pre A/C days), my father installed a plywood box on my window and put in a whole house fan. My bed was directly in front of it. It did get cooler in day time but really was better in evening. I of course had to sleep with cover in the summers! During the winter we covered it with a piece of canvas.

    Think I will put one together for my mother-in-law in East Texas. They run one window unit A/C and my wife refuses to go visit in the summer months!

  5. Instead of spending $100 or more on an "official" whole-house fan, consider mounting a cheap, 3-speed "breeze box" fan on a piece of plywood, OSB or melamine-clad particle board. Set the contraption into a sliding window frame or drop in in place of the solid panel in the attic access hatch, and voilá, you have a poor man's air conditioner. Plug it into an appliance timer for convenient control, letting it run on slow speed all night when it is cooler outside.

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