A Fan At The Top Of The Stairs

David Trammel's picture

I've mentioned that I live without AC. I never planned it as a statement but it went out a few years back and I found that I could just retreat into the basement in really hot times, where I have a second bed, and survive with a minimal of discomfort. Also as a webmaster of a site about green living and sustainability, I should be "walking the talk" in practice, shouldn't I?

Last year, with just one cat, I would just leave the door open and wake up at times with her sleeping on the chair I have next to the bed, to block the basement light from my face. I leave a light on, because I'm old and a fall in a pitch black basement would be bad, lol.

This year I have more than one cat. I've been fostering some shy animals from a local shelter I volunteer at and decided I didn't want the new three to have free access to the basement. During this week's heat emergency I decided to see if something I'd read about, aka putting a fan at the top of the basement stairs to pull cool air from below worked. So I put a big box fan in the open doorway, piled a few boxes on either side to prevent the cats from jumping it and went to bed.

First impressions, it works sort of. Its not AC but it did keep the temperature inside moderately cool. I closed the outside windows when I went to bed (now at about 10 am). I did wake occasionally wet from sweat, but the small fan next to the head of my bed kept me cool.

A second fan at the bottom of the stairs, aimed up, might increase the cooling.

Luckily, the heat is supposed to break tomorrow.

lathechuck's picture

You mentioned "leaving a light on"; I hope it's a fractional-watt LED night-light. I have several of those plugged into the wall outlets in my basement, so I rarely need to turn on the overhead fixture lighting just to pass safely through The Clutter Zone.

Do you have a dehumidifier? I've found that dry air (dew point 60F) at 90F can be more comfortable than humid air (dew point 70F) at 75F. I hope, some day soon, to assess the feasibility of encouraging the warm, dry air from my dehumifier to soak heat into the slab floor of my basement, and the soil beneath it, for release during the colder months. (This will involve laying a slightly raised floor over the tile, so the warm air can pass beneath it.)

mountainmoma's picture

Isnt it cooler at night where you live ? I keep all windows closed all day and open them all up, and the sliding doors, and the skylights when it cools down in the evening, even when it doesnt cool down much, it is always cooler at night than in the day here. I also got rid of airconditioning, and overall it isnt too bad, but the past couple days have been very hot, so that the upstairs by the end of the day was over 100' F inside the house. It has cooled down about 10 degrees so far with the house opened up. The elevation difference in the house helps to create air circulation, the house has a very open plan, the skylights vent out the hotter air as cooler night air is pulled in thru the downstairs doors. Yes, it is hard to sleep on the hottest nights, taking a shower right before bed helps

I also keep my windows closed during the day. Add white room-darkening window shades pulled down all day (yes, it makes the rooms dark) and you'll not just keep hot air outside; you'll reflect the hot sunshine. This step is VITAL.
Then, at night, don't just open the windows. Use window fans to pull air in at one side of the house and vent it at the other.
Also, at night, open up all your other vents: attic accesses, fireplace chimney dampers, anything that lets cooler air circulate more fully. If you've got two stories, suck cooler air inside on the first floor with fans and on the top floor, blow it out with more big box fans.
In the morning, run around and close all the vents, remove the fans, close and lock the windows and pull down the shades.
This is work, but it's free, other than your muscle and time and remembering to do the work.

In my house, we call this 'The Window Dance'.

ClareBroommaker's picture

That's the way to do it, Teresa, for sure. Also look for ways to smooth the movement of air within the house. Open doors, portieres, and transoms between rooms, too.