Today, we opened the windows for the Spring Window Dance

We perform the Window Dance at my house.
That is, I manipulate my windows, window quilts, window shades, and drapes to moderate the temperature of the house.

It depends on what's going on outside.

Spring is the most challenging season by far. I NEED to air out the house. I want to warm up the house but not too much. I don't want the furnace to run any more than it has too.

In Spring, the weather swings back and forth wildly; too cool then very mild and even hot.
Should I open the windows and let that fresh, warm air inside, along with all that sunshine?

If I let in too much heat, I risk raising the temperature of the house overall. This is excellent for saving money on home heating oil. It's very bad for going into Summer's heat with a warm house.

For cooling purposes over the Summer, it's best to enter the season with a COLD house, because then it takes longer for the house to get hot inside. Likewise, it's best to enter the Winter season with the hottest house I can get.

Our house is made of concrete block under vinyl siding so I do have enough thermal mass to make this work.

So, the windows are open and the furnace is turned off. I'll let the house warm up (saving money on home heating oil) but not too much. I have to watch the thermostat. If it gets much over 75 degrees, I have to close up shop and keep that lovely warming sun outside because I don't want to get warm too fast.

This is where the window shades come in. With shades, you can open your doublehung windows and use the open portion to catch the breeze and still block some solar gain in the top part of the window.

Once the sun sets, I have to make a decision: close up tight to retain heat? (windows, shades, window quilts, insulated drapes)
Or, stay open a while longer and let the temperature descend a few degrees internally, but not too much so the furnace comes on.

Spring is hard.
Autumn is easy: catch and retain as much heat as you can!
Winter is easy: catch and retain as much heat as you can!
Summer is easy: keep the heat outside where it belongs!

Spring though.

What do you do?

Teresa from Hershey

mountainmoma's picture

Here, the way the seasons are, there are rarely days the windows can be left open.

In the summer, the windows are closed all day and opened at night to air out the house.

In winter, the windows are closed. I get heat better that way, even on a sunny day, the air temperature outside is cold, but the sun hitting the south facing windows will heat up the house with the windows closed.

Fall is overall hotter than spring here. Fall is a time that windows can be open during some days.

Spring, we dont realy have much of a spring. We get fake springs, warms up in January enough to make fruit trees bloom, then it is back to cold and about half the time, freezes those buds right off. Spring is not as cold as winter, yep. But, mostly in spring, the air is cold and the windows are closed to keep the heat in. A few days here and there, we can air out the house for a couple of hours. Then, summer comes on, like someone threw a switch ! Fall is Indian summer, long, pleasant warmth.

Unless it is cold all day (as in under 55F) I suggest that you open the windows to sun and air from 11:30 to 3:30 then close windows but leave drapes open till 6:00 then close drapes and get snugged in for the night. If the windows dance to the rhythm of the Day and keep good time, the house should equalize within and without to the ambient air temp. Then let the space fronted by the western windows collect radiant heat during late afternoon. Sun shining through the glass will heat the interior just as it does in a closed car. Closing the drapes near sundown will help retain the late afternoon heat within as the air outside cools down. Adjust as needed if a sudden cold front sweeps in at midday.

Teresa, when I saw the headline for this topic I thought I would be reading about some kind of druidic spring equinox rite:)
The spring window dance clearly depends a lot on climate and house style. Here in Tas we have a long, fairly chilly spring, so keep the windows closed except in the middle of the day when it is warm enough to enjoy a breeze. I live in a weatherboard house which is well-insulated but still warms up and cools down quickly. I know that on a hot summer's day I can open the front window and the back door to get a through breeze, but need to shut the front window and curtains by 11am when the sun hits that window. I can leave the back door open until about one, when the sun swings around to that side of the house. Even on the hottest days where I am I can create enough of a breeze with the window dance that it is worth keeping some of them open to create a cross draught.
I guess the real point of all of these stories is that it takes a close knowledge of your climate, your house, its orientation and your own needs to carefully orchestrate a comfortable indoors temperature without resorting to air-conditioning, and using heating sparingly. It's a bit of a lost art, and maybe a druidical rite after all, working with the sun and wind to heat and cool your house:)

alice's picture

"I guess the real point of all of these stories is that it takes a close knowledge of your climate, your house, its orientation and your own needs to carefully orchestrate a comfortable indoors temperature without resorting to air-conditioning, and using heating sparingly. It's a bit of a lost art, and maybe a druidical rite after all, working with the sun and wind to heat and cool your house:)"

I really like this comment Blueday Jo. There is an art to managing the comfort of the house for the inhabitants, temperature and ventilation by working with its aspect, the weather, knowledge of climate etc., all the things you say. Sometimes I spend the time learning how to do these things, just a few minutes of observation and experimenting over weeks and years and just gradually building up my practice and I can't necessarily even describe what I'm learning and then someone else talks about it and I can say -- oh yes that, I've been learning a bit of that myself. Hooray for the ancient druidic art of inhabitation.

alice's picture

Here I'm organizing all the things that need the sunlight most urgently round the back of the house which is southeast facing. Shuffling the finished compost out of the bin around the trees and shrubs I mulch. I just potted up some herbaceous peony roots that I found in what is nowadays a dark corner and shuffled that big pot into the 'full sun' zone. Sowing stuff like salad leaves into pots in the cold frame. Feeding some of the hungrier indoor plants now the daylight is long enough for them to start needing the extra nutrients. Gingerly giving the first watering of the year to aloes now they've made it through the winter. Assessing the bridle paths to see what is passable by bike now the days are not so short and rainy. Bringing in daffodil flowers for their beautiful scent and colour. Planting out pignuts in places they are likely to thrive. Down to one hot water bottle per person from the midwinter high of two to three each. Drapes and windows open when I'm home when the sun is shining to air the house out but still shut evenings and at night here. We have electric storage heaters that use the concrete mass of the house as a thermal store so I don't turn those down for a while yet as I use the extra heat to chase the damp out when it's fine enough to open the windows. The old saying here is 'ne'r cast a clout til May is out', explained to me as a child as don't actually chuck/pass on any of your winter warm stuff until after May as it can still frost right up til then.

Also usually the oaks are getting ready to leaf this time of year, but we've had an exceptionally wet winter and it's looking like the ash trees will leaf first. The rhyme is 'If the oak is out before the ash then we shall have a splash. If the ash if out before the oak then we shall have a soak." so it looks like the wet weather may continue.

It's fall now in Central Pa. We have wild swings in the weather from day to day and at night.
The window dance theme is now trapping as much heat as possible, while still airing out the house.

So today, it was already 75 degrees (15 October)! It's warmer outside than it is inside. I have every window in the house open wide, along with both attic accesses (to bleed off heat into the house and air those spaces) and my unfinished basement windows.

By five pm, I'll have to close windows. At sunset, the drapes get closed (the full winter with window quilts, insulated drapes, & shades) to trap every bit of heat.

This fall, the weather has been cooperative. It's 15 October and we have yet to need the furnace. The reason, though, is insulation along with accumulating and trapping heat. It's so important to let the sun pour in through windows, taking full advantage of the greenhouse effect.

I keep an eye on the ten-day forecast for highs and lows, but each day is a separate decision. Even when I open the windows varies as it may be only for an hour at the peak temperature, then closed windows (with completely open drapes) to catch warming sunlight. We always close up shop from top to bottom by sunset as once the sun is gone, the heat flees.

What do you do in autumn?

ClareBroommaker's picture

Well I blew it today. Had to go open all the windows and doors on a chilly noonday when I was already using a lap rug and one over my shoulders as I sat here reading and responding on this forum. You see, I forgot pancakes cooking on the stove until the kitchen filled with smoke. :-( There goes my homemaker of the year award.

alice's picture

I have heard 'shock airing' recommended -- open all doors and windows for five full minutes, then shut everything again. The theory is this fully refreshes the air without losing too much of the thermal store in the mass of the building. Though maybe this doesn't work in non-masonry houses. Ours here is built of WW2 concrete+roadstone, lots of thermal mass.

I do something similar when it's sunny but too cold to leave the house open for long.

Even five minutes makes the house smell so much better.

alice's picture

I love your window dance Teresa =D I could do to look at the drapes this winter and see when the savings account will allow us to upgrade. We've been saving up and have just had new double glazing fitted, doors and windows, and the house is already much warmer than last year.

Also quite pleased as I managed to fill up 3/4 of the cold frame yesterday with another round of winter salad seed trays and pots. I'm assessing various winter sown lettuces and other greens, herbs etc to see how they do. It's light that becomes limiting this time of year in the UK but the seedlings might grow enough to be advanced spring crops when the number of light hours rises again in the spring. I'm not sure about whether the seedlings will need any fertilizing -- possibly not as I think nitrogen use is not high when the weather is colder. I will have to ask the expert gardeners.

I have developed an arrangement, I am raising seedlings in my cold frame that I then farm out when they need more room to a friend with a big garden but not as much time to tend seedlings. We've done well for salads, chard, and kale this year as they very kindly donate an armful back or invite us to go and pick every now and then.

Hi everyone,

The easiest, quickest, cheapest window insulation upgrade that I've found is a big (second-hand) bath towel draped over a spring-tension curtain rod.

Drape the towel over the rod and safety-pin it in place so it doesn't slip. The size of the bath towel determines how much you double it over.

Fit the spring-tension rod inside the window frame edges at the top. The furthest out lip is best, rather than closer to the glass. Drape the towel so it covers the frame on both sides and hangs down over the sill. Close the drapes as you normally would.

Don't let the towel touch the glass! You want dead air space as insulation. Depending on how leaky your windows are, you'll also get condensation on the glass which you'll have to wipe off in the morning.

Spring-tension rods work great for renters as there's not so much as a nail for the landlord to complain over.

The alternative is more permanent but holds in place better. Get oak dowels, about 3/8 in diameter and a pair of cup hooks that the dowel will easily slip into. Oak works better than pine as it's stronger for it's size. Thinner dowels won't hold the weight.
Mount the cup hooks in the far corners of the upper edge of the window frame. Drape and safety-pin the towel and then hang the dowel in the cup hooks.

This method lasts much longer than spring-tension curtain rods do (which have a tendency to slip) but you have to be able to make holes in the window frames. Using cup hooks and dowels also permits you to hang the dowel essentially wherever you want it.

White, beige, or cream towels will vanish from view; they look like drapes. If you don't care and your neighbors won't turn you in to the HOA, go wild.

David Trammel's picture

My duplex has those terrible single pane windows, so what I did was pick up some low cost sleeping bags ($15-20). They are huge and can cover a large window with a good overlap on the side. Now I just put them up with a few nails but then some people can't do that. They were great when I worked third shift too, because they blocked 90% of the light.

I can see this working. It also made me think again of the thrift shop.

If you don't want to buy more expensive sleeping bags, you could do the exact same thing with secondhand comforters from the thrift shop. A bigger thrift-shop always has some in the bag. At Goodwill Bargain Bin stores (Goodwill's own clearance stores within the larger chain) they sell them by the pound.

In either case, they're cheap, readily accessible, and can be reused as bedding. A win all around.

As I write this, it's 75 degrees at 1:20 pm in Central Pa on 6 November.
75 degrees in November.

I'm taking advantage of it, of course, warming and airing out the house.

It occurred to me as I was opening up the attic accesses that those spaces get hot.
I may be able on sunny, sunny, windless days, be able to open the attic accesses even though I can't open the windows. If this works, I can bleed heat from the attic into the upstairs.

The day has to be not just full sun but there can't be any wind. We have ridge and eave vents so any breeze will help the attic shed heat. That's what they're designed to do.

If this works, I let everyone know.

This is parallel to using our glassed-in Florida Room in the winter. It's an enclosed porch, glass all around. There's no heat so the temperature swings wildly from noon to midnight. During a sunny, windless day, especially if there is snow on the ground, the Florida Room gets hotter than the house, which is heated and insulated! When that happens, I open up the house to the Florida Room and let heat bleed into the house proper.

As long as it's full sun and no wind, this heat sink works. The temperature on the Florida Room drops as the sun goes down, but it takes some time. However, I can't wait too long before closing up.

If I can combine the attic access heat sink and the Florida Room heat sink in the winter, I may be able to gain a few degrees on both floors of the house; useful and economical.


Teresa, I noticed your instructions say to let the towel drape over the window sill, but I just wanted to reemphasized this. Make sure they are draped over the window sill so that air can not move down behind them, and they are not freely hanging with an air space between the towel and the window sill or wall. The bottom needs to seal off the air flow. If the curtains are full length they need to puddle on the floor a little. I suppose an air space at the bottom would be fine if the top was sealed, but if an air current can enter at the top and exit at the bottom, then a cycle will set up that will eventually cool all the air in the room.

Yes, you're trying to create dead air space.

You'll never get a perfect seal. Older windows in particular leak like sieves.

Puddling drapes on the floor only works in decorating magazines or in homes that have maids and do not have children or animals. I guarantee that animals will sleep on your puddled drapes and toddlers will step on them and yank them down.

What does work really well is to stop the air flow at the TOP of the window. This is the purpose of a pelmet (wooden, upholstered box at the top) or a heavy, padded valence. They seal off the top of the window and slow down the air movement.

Only the most agile of cats will climb up to the top of your drapes and sleep on the pelmet or valence. Your kids can't reach it.

They're still major dust catchers and have to be cleaned every so often.

No, dust shouldn't be considered as insulation.

Good point about puddling. Sad point about dust.

This spring has been challenging. The weather can't seem to make up its mind as to warming steadily or wild swings.
Thus, some days I've opened the windows to air out the house but not nearly as much as I would in a more normal May.

My goal in May (in Central PA) is to not use the furnace OR the air conditioner. Either one. Or worse, both.
It kills me to use the furnace in May. I shouldn't have to, despite Mother's Day being the first guaranteed frost-free planting date.
Similarly, I shouldn't need to air condition the house because it is not yet summer.

May of 2021 has had me courting a touch of heat to avoid the furnace, while KNOWING that June is on it's way and if I heat up the house too much, I'll need the AC sooner.

Is anyone else having a more challenging spring window dance than usual?
Spring is always difficult but this one seems more so than I remember from years past.

The spring here in the land of Zion has been up and down temperature wise. We will get a few days of 80's+ followed by a few days of low 60's and I swing back and forth between throwing windows open and running fans to cool the house or shutting up all the windows and putting a sweater back on.