Keeping Ye Olde Farmhouse Cool

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by DixyDoodle, Jun 6, 2008.

  1. DixyDoodle

    DixyDoodle stranger than fiction

    Nov 15, 2005
    Eastern Ontario, Canada
    So, anyone want to share some tips on what they do to keep their house cool in summer? If you own a multiple story house, particularly an older style, you're probably dreading the return of the summer humidity as much as I am. Unless of course you're one of the lucky few that own an A/C, which sadly we do not.

    What happens is that you end up with a lower floor that is almost tolerable, and your upstairs heat will rival that of the devil's playground.

    What we do is generally open the windows all up during the day on the shady side of the house, to let in the cooler air (ha, cooler air, how funny!). Close the blinds on the sunny side. You know how it is when you open the windows in your house and you can actually feel the hot air pour in? Yuk! Better to keep 'em closed in that situation.

    A few floor fans downstairs if it's really hot.

    We also have ceiling fans in the bedrooms and kitchen. Fans on medium during the day, on full at night if it's a scorcher, low if it's just stuffy, off if it's tolerable non-humid weather. Windows open wide on nice days.

    What about those fans that you prop in the window? Would sucking the hot air out of the house help? Or are they a waste?

    Would buying a few room-size A/Cs be worth it? Just to run at night with the bedroom doors closed?

    Maybe some of you have some alternative ideas?
  2. Wisconsin Ann

    Wisconsin Ann Happy Scrounger

    Feb 27, 2007
    South Central Wisconsin
    Friend of ours has a 2 story box type house. He put in a fan in the attic entrance (hole in the ceiling of the 2nd story in the hallway), closes all the windows, opens the door to the basement. when he turns on the fan, it sucks the air up out of the house and up thru/out the attic. There is a lovely breeze that comes out of the basement and flows thru the house, cooling everything.

    We have a squirrel cage fan in the window of a bedroom on one side of the house (pointing out the window). Open a window in our bedroom, close all the others, turn on the fan, and the cooler air from outside (we're talking nightime here) gets sucked in and thru the house fairly rapidly. after 30minutes the house is cooled down. It also works with the basement door open instead of a window for day use.

  3. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

    Jun 18, 2003
    NE Ohio
    We don't have air conditioning either, and have upstairs bedrooms which get very stuffy. We have a fan in the bedroom window. I hate the noise, but it's quieter than a window air conditioner I guess! We get up at 4:30, when it is usually fairly cool, so I open all of the windows then. Then I watch my indoor outdoor thermometer, and when the two temps meet, I close the windows and draw the shades half way. We spend an awful lot of time in our basement rec room. It's always comfortably cool down there. Tonight we may sleep in the basement, as last night no one got much sleep due to the heat wave we are having. When all else fails, there is always a cool bath, the sprinkler, or a trip to the movies!:D Stay cool, friend.
  4. FL.Boy

    FL.Boy Well-Known Member

    Dec 17, 2007
    North Florida
    At night the window fans work great when i was growing up we had no air and that wasn't that long ago. In the hot summer of Florida i would turn the window fan on about a hour before going to bed and the room would be nice and cool. I would say 75% of the time i would wake up freezing around 3 to 4 am. and turn it off. Now to the real point Hot you guy's have no idea what hot is come spend a summer in Florida it was 95F in the shade yesterday

    ps: i love sleeping in the heat i can just fall right asleep and just sweat all that weight off lol
  5. fishhead

    fishhead Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jul 19, 2006
    northcentral MN
    We planted climbing vines (morning glory and scarlet climbing beans) on strings on the whole south face of our house one summer. I fastened the strings about 2' from the siding. Even with the canner running full blast all day it was 10 degrees cooler in the house. Plus it was nice to look at.

    When I lived in AL I would put a box fan in the living room window exhausting air at night. Then I would close all the rest of the windows except the one over my bed. Even without air conditioning I slept fine. I had just moved from AK so it wasn't like I was used to the heat.
  6. BlackWillowFarm

    BlackWillowFarm Well-Known Member Supporter

    Mar 24, 2008
    West Michigan
    That really does work! When I was young we had a huge old two story house. The kind with two stairways going to the upstairs. It had a funky enclosed back porch with windows. My father bought a large fan and installed it in the porch window so the fan was blowing the air out. At night the fan would pull the cooler air in from outside through every window in the whole house. We made sure our beds were right next to the windows and slept great.

    The last house we lived in, my husband installed a whole house fan upstairs. It did the same thing as our old porch fan. I was worried I wouldn't like the noise, but I got used to it pretty fast and really preferred it to the A/C at night because of the nice breeze it created.
  7. Slev

    Slev Well-Known Member Supporter

    Nov 29, 2003
    We have a 1909 big ol 2 story farmhouse. We are lucky to have several big trees right next to the house which provides lots of shade. We have 10' & 9' cielings. We put in an attic fan as soon as we moved in. (Normally, we can get by with that until the months of July & August) Also, no one has mentioned yet, that if you turn on just the fan from your furnace, it also will draw the cool air from the basement and transfer it all over the house. (Running that fan is just like running any other, it uses the same electricity)

    ....Then we kick on the AC. Although with the crazy weather we've had in St. Louis, we just tried our whole house AC, but when it tries to kick on, the blades don't turn. I did take a stick and start the spinning motion, and it took right off! However, it didn't stay working. So, there's a repair bill on the way!
  8. Cindy in NY

    Cindy in NY Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    We have an old 2 story Victorian. If I know it's going to be hot, I close the blinds on the hot side of the house. At night when it's hot, we turn on the room size air conditioner in the upstairs hall and put a fan in the bedroom window at the opposite end of the hall. The fan helps to pull the cool air through the upstairs. Because cold air falls, a lot of times this small upstairs air conditioner is the only one we need to cool off the whole house (or get rid of the humidity).
  9. Michael W. Smith

    Michael W. Smith Well-Known Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    We own a 100+ year old 2 story farm house. One thing that helps us is we have a big old maple tree that shades quite a bit of the house during the hottest part of the day.

    A fan in the downstairs window keeps us somewhat comfortable during a heat wave.

    We also have new windows that slide open either from the top or bottom and we usually open both up hoping that warmer air from the house goes out the top and cooler air from outside comes in.

    A ceiling fan in the bedroom is wonderful as it keeps the air moving, but with both of us having jobs in air conditioning, several years ago we bought a window air conditioner just for the bedroom. We now can sleep in even the hottest weather as before if it was hot and humid we just tossed and turned and sweated! And while the air conditioner is noisy, you get used to it fairly quick.

    We only have the one air conditioner, so on the warmer nights our one and only son usually sleeps on the floor in our room just to keep cool. Window air conditioners aren't that expensive - you can probably get a decent sized one at Walmart for around $150.00.

    If you are thinking about buying one though, you may want to get out and get it bought. Our first heat wave has already started and it's only the first week in June. Looks like we may have a long hot summer, so air conditioners may be hard to find later on if this heat keeps up - and all of next week is to be hot & humid as well.

    Stay cool!
  10. katlupe

    katlupe Off-The-Grid Homesteader Supporter

    Nov 15, 2004
    Upstate NY
    Our 1850 farmhouse has no air conditioner or fans. We open our windows and get plenty of breezes. We are right in the thick forest, and our yard is cleared except for a few shade trees in the back yard. It is cooler because of the surrounding forest than it would be in another spot.

    I close the curtains to the windows that the sun pours in through out the day. Every morning I open the door to our root cellar that serves to cool our pantry. I eventually plan on getting a solar attic fan and also adding a DC ceiling fan. But not this year.

    Our upstairs bedroom can get plenty hot later in the summer, but nothing we can't handle. Hot weather does not bother my husband at all. He loves it. He hates the cold weather and all the work it entails for him, so he never complains about our hot weather.

    If I get too hot, I just soak my feet in cold water and I'm just fine. I grew up in central FL so hot weather is something I can live with. We get plenty of rain here and that cools us off most of the time.

  11. jimarh

    jimarh Well-Known Member

    Feb 21, 2005
    Florida is hot but here in Indiana yesterday (and again today) temperatures were mid to upper 90's. Only cooled down to 70 over night.

    You will all yell at me though because I love summer, like the heat, have all the windows open and a great breeze coming in. We live on the side of a hill, high up, overlooking a river valley below and get wind sweeping in across the valley. Have central air and hardly ever, ever turn it on.
    Trees on all sides and woods on three sides. Pretty pleasant here.
  12. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

    Jun 18, 2003
    NE Ohio
    I'm with you on the heat! It's been 90 here the last two days, and while my family has been whining and wilting, I've been LOVING being able to have bare arms and feet without freezing. The only time it gets to me is when I'm trying to sleep. Michael, I was wondering if it's going to be a good old fashioned long hot summer too. The last time it was this hot on this date was 1988, which was a hot, dry summer if I recall correctly.
  13. Macybaby

    Macybaby I love South Dakota Supporter

    Jun 15, 2006
    South Dakota
    This will be the first summer with all the changes we made, so we'll see how big a difference this made.

    We have a 1/2 story upstairs, and had almost no venting in the attic. We have no trees and it does get hot in the summer, however humidity is not usually a big problem. Our house had old, leaky windows (more a winter problem than summer) and little to no insulation. We had a narrow stairway to the upper level that didn't help much with air flow.

    Two years ago, we put a "cold roof" over the existing roof (after removing two layers of shingles and two of cedar shakes). This has venting to the eaves and enough gaps between the old sheathing to provide venting for the attic. We also put vents in both gable ends.

    Last year we gutted the area, shimmed out the walls to 6" and added insulation and vapor barrier. We put housewrap on the outside. Windows were all replaces too.

    We changed the floor plan and now have an more of an open floor plan with a wide stairway. In the winter the heat from the stove had no problem making it's way to the upper level and keeping it nice even without the heat on up stairs.

    We also keep shades pulled. We get a lot of heat from the sun, and keeping the shades pulled makes a big difference in how hot it will get in a room. For when it gets really hot, we put in a window AC unit. We have three, one for our bedroom, one for the den (that is open to the kitchen) and one for upstairs, if we need it (was used for my son's bedroom when he lived here - before we remodeled). Almost all our rooms have ceiling fans, and we use them a lot.

    We only run the AC maybe 10 - 20 days a year.

    So far this spring, we've had cool, wet weather. It's like we are running a month behind on the seasons since about October last year.

  14. jlxian

    jlxian Also known as Jean Supporter

    Feb 14, 2005
    We have an old house too, with high ceilings and big windows. There is an old maple tree on the south side which has always given us lots of shade, but the poor thing suffered a lot in the ice storm we had in December. It is about 1/2 its width now --- lost a lot of the branches that shaded the back.

    We have central a/c which we are planning to use only when it is unbearable this year. In past years I kept it at 78 - 80 degrees anyway, but this year we are hoping to not use it at all if possible.

    The worst place in the house besides the upstairs is the kitchen. Its like a dead end for air circulation. We have a ceiling fan but when the stove is used for any reason the heat generated is awful. There are windows on the west and south. We rarely open the south windows but I think this year I will have to insist they open just for some circulation and breeze.

    The upstairs is usually pretty awful in the summer. If I put a fan in the window a couple of hours before bed I can blow in some cooler air. And we have more ceiling fans in the bedrooms. Still there have been some very uncomfortable nights.

    I've tried to convince DH that an attic fan would be good but he is unmoveable on it for some reason.

    My children, even though they have grown up in this house, refuse to open their bedroom windows in the summer. They claim they hate to hear the bugs hit the screens. To me that is one of the joys of summer, but they would rather be hot.
  15. Sabrina67

    Sabrina67 Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    We are in the same We hate to use the A/C . And last year we didn't till almost July. This year has been different though , the humidity has been so awful. Our house is also an old farmhouse and our kitchen is the dead end place also...what is with old farm I also love the bug sound and luckily the kids do too. But they are upstairs and it is really hot up there so they need air before we do. We have only window units so as each room needs air ,it can be used..but window units are also more expensive.
    Now I just have to prepare for the electric bill....:(
  16. whiterock

    whiterock Well-Known Member Supporter

    Mar 26, 2003
    South of DFW,TX zone 8a
    My house is 1500 sq ft. I put foil on the west windows that are exposed to the sun and that greatly cuts the heat, not worried bout the neighbors as the west side is all mine. I set the main ac unit on about 85, mainly to draw out the humidity, all rooms have ceiling fans. I put a small window unit in my bedroom, which i crank down about an hour before i go to bed, and turn the setting up when i get up.

    If i get hot in the house, I go outside for a while, and when i come back in the house feels cold to me.
  17. crobar

    crobar Well-Known Member

    Sep 20, 2006
    We lived in an old story & half with no a/c upstairs. We did insulate between rafters (ceiling on bottom of rafters, roofing on top of them). By accident I discovered by over sleeping until about noon one day; do not draw air in or blow it in from outside until the temperature inside is nearly equal to temperature outside. Zap the fans as early in morning as possible (5 or 6am) wait for temperature climb. In our house it would be noon or even 1 or 2 pm. Gave us several extra hours. You cannot cool a house by pulling in air that is warmer than the air that is in the house. Even if it's moving 30mph.
  18. Dutchie

    Dutchie Well-Known Member Supporter

    Mar 14, 2003
    Pawnee Nation, OK
    I live in an old (1895) stone farmhouse. As soon as the sun hits the south side in the morning and the air becomes warm, I shut all the windows and the shades around the house. As soon as the sun sets I open the house up again. Between the ceiling fans and the breeze we almost always have around here it stays pretty cool in the house.
  19. Sandra Nelson

    Sandra Nelson Well-Known Member

    Oct 12, 2002
    East Central Minnesota
    Right now in Askov, Minnesota, it is only 65 degrees and raining. I have been living in sweatshirts and most of the time I have had a lighter shirt underneath and have been wearing a large sweater over the sweatshirt during the evening. You all want to send a little of that heat up here?

  20. RedTartan

    RedTartan Icelandic Sheep Supporter

    May 2, 2006
    Northeast Ohio
    I love this thread!

    I don't have too much to add to it, though. I do use thermal curtains year 'round. I keep them closed along the affected side of the house. This means I don't have to turn the air on until 3pm or so.

    :) RedTartan