Monday, July 25, 2011

Passive solar cooling - update

We have no air conditioners at all in our large home.  No central air, no window units.  I wrote back in June about how we use passive solar cooling (covering windows and closing the house up during the day, and opening up the house at night).  How's it working?

Well, Friday morning I walked out of my home at 6 a.m. to find that it was warmer outside than inside.  That's probably normal for people with air conditioning, but really unusual for us.  It means that we haven't been able to use the cool nights to chill our house -- because the nights haven't been cool.

Have you heard the expression, "It's hot enough to fry an egg?"  On Saturday, I did exactly that:  I cooked 6 eggs outdoors in my solar cooker -- essentially a cardboard box with a storm window on top.  (Some of you might recognize this set-up from my wax-covered pinecones project).  Here are some pictures to prove it.
Here's my solar cooker. 
I checked on the eggs two hours after I put them in the cooker.  This is what they looked like then. Were they done?

Yes, here's a yolk I picked up.  It's so hot, you can cook an egg outside.  These eggs were part of our lunch.

The temperature here in central Pennsylvania has topped 100 degrees a couple of days in a row.  Our house started this heatwave at 72 degrees and ultimately got up to 83 degrees inside.
Is that comfortable?  Well, no and yes.  My husband has been doing some pretty vigorous exercise, including a 20-mile bike race with an extra 20 miles of warm up/cool down.  He comes home and is honestly pretty wiped.  He's hanging in there because he loves me, but he's not peppy.  On the other hand, we had some friends drive in from out of town and remark with surprise, "It feels nice in here!"  They'd been in a minivan whose air-conditioning had broken, so maybe they're not the best judges. But still, our home is nowhere near as hot as it is outside.  I find that if I'm just sitting still and there's some kind of a ceiling fan, I'm very comfortable.

Am I ranting that because we do it, everybody has to give up air-conditioning?   No.  But here's the point.   What I AM saying is that other people could WAY reduce their air conditioning load by putting heavy curtains on their windows.  Our family survives through this massive, record-setting heatwave by covering our windows and doing almost nothing else.

Everyone reading this blog knows the experience of getting into a car parked in the sun where the seatbelts buckles are too hot to touch.   I managed to cook eggs with a black pot, a cardboard box, and an old window.  Windows are powerful.  In a battle between your air conditioner and your windows, your utility bills will be the loser.

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