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Stayin’ Cool

Last summer was T-H-E  W-O-R-S-T in my house. Incredibly warm, muggy, stuffy, sweaty, gross. All of those words. I muddled through the summer, saved my pennies (well, those I didn’t glue to my floor, haha), and this year was able to get a ductless air conditioner installed! This post covers some options that are available for those of you looking into AC.

I know most of you are probably thinking… what’s the point? Just get some window air conditioner units like the rest of the world. Right? Well, I wish. I have a unique situation in my house so I thought I’d write this post to help some of you out that may have a similar situation.

the large windows in the front of my house were a big selling feature for me. I really wasn't thinking about AC when I saw them, though.
the large windows in the front of my house were a big selling feature for me. I really wasn’t thinking about AC when I saw them, though.

My situation

When I bought my house, I love love loved the large windows in the front. It was a huge selling feature for me. I moved in during the cold winter months of Pennsylvania, and as summer approached, I quickly realized that there really was no place for an air conditioning window unit in my bedroom (the large windows on the left).  Hmmm, interesting. It’s not something I really ever thought about until the day that I wanted to put one in.

As I roamed around the main level of my house, I realized that there’s not one single window that will actually hold a window air conditioner. Not one.  The large windows are actually picture windows that don’t open at all, and the smaller windows on the sides are casement windows that have the crank on them. They are very tall and very narrow. I looked into the freestanding air conditioners, but they still need a venting solution, which would mean a tiny tube would exit through the narrow window (not a problem), but I would have to rig up some sort of barrier with plywood or Plexiglas to seal up the other 4 ft of window height. Since it’s in the front of my house, it really seemed like it would only be a temporary solution because:

  • they’re actually pretty expensive (compared to window AC units)
  • it would not be very energy efficient (I would never get a tight seal on the rest of the window with plexi or plywood)
  • they are really ugly (the truth hurts!)
  • I’d have to trip over it every single day

So, I lugged the window AC upstairs into the spare bedroom and decided that when it was really hot, I would sleep up there.  This worked for me last summer, but it’s really not comfortable when you are in your own house and you can’t even sleep in your own bed. It was cool, but I was tossing and turning, and Quincy and Roxy did NOT help the situation. They were confused, and didn’t want to stay. But they also came to check up on me every 30 minutes. It was like grand central station! Get up, open door, let the cat in, close door to keep air in, listen to scratching, let cat out, let dog in, lay down, cat scratches at door, get up let him in, let dog out… etc. etc. etc.  Over time, I just decided that I would sleep downstairs in my regular room. Even though it was hot and I tossed and turned, it wasn’t as bad as what I have just explained.  I also decided that I needed a solution to this problem, because summer comes every year.

The Options

This bedfan Circulates air under the sheets to disperse built-up body heat and keep you comfortable all night long.
This bedfan Circulates air under the sheets to disperse built-up body heat and keep you comfortable all night long.

Beyond the portable AC unit option that I explained above, there were several other solutions I’ve come across throughout my research. If you are in a similar situation, maybe these will help you to make the best decision for your situation.

  1. Regular ‘ol Fans – Obviously installing a ceiling fan or running a box fan in the room will help. But, as most of you know, once you have AC, settling for this is really, really difficult. However, if you get the right set-up and circulate the air properly, it’s a really cheap option to think about.
  2. Bed Fan: Brookstone sells this new creation called a bed fan.  At about $100, it tucks between the top and bottom sheets to cool your body–the source of the heat–instead of the entire house so you can save on cooling costs. It’s also great for couples with different temperature preferences because you can situate the fan on the side of the bed with the “hot” person, and the “cold” person won’t have to freeze. I haven’t purchased the bedfan, but I’ve seriously considered it, and it has pretty good reviews. Check it out.
  3. Through the wall air conditioners: They make units that actually can be installed into the wall of your home. However tempting it may sound, it really is permanent; meaning, you cut a giant hole into your house and the AC rests within that. There also can be problems with insulating around the unit, or leaking of the “sleeve” which holds the AC into place. But, with proper installation in a hot climate this may be a good option for you.
  4. New windows: Believe it or not, I’ve actually considered replacing the windows in the front of my house. The rest of the windows were replaced last year, but these were in better shape than the rest. If I replaced them, I would have the option to reconfigure the setup of them, and would be able to make the picture window narrower, and have a set up double hung windows on each side.  It sounds a little crazy, but the energy efficiency benefit of replacing old windows is really great, so it would definitely help in the long run. However, this option would still leave me with a window AC unit hanging out of the front of my house for 4 months of the year… which pretty much deterred me from doing it. Read my post about replacement windows if this may be an option for you.
  5. Ductless Air Conditioning: This is a fairly new technology which uses a wall unit on the inside of the house and a compressor on the outside of the house. The two are connected by a small tube and installs in less than a day. They can be very energy efficient compared to whole home central air. These ductless systems also are capable of zoning, so you can control the temperature in separate rooms with separate units hooked to the same compressor, and some units even have heat functions built in. However, once you get into these multi-zone, multi-function systems, the price can really skyrocket.
  6. Central Air Conditioning: By far the most expensive option, central air conditioners are more efficient and quieter than in-room air conditioning. If you have a forced air furnace, they can use the same ductwork that you already have. The large unit is placed outside of your home, and all you have are very small ceiling vents inside, so it looks like you don’t even have it! However,  if you don’t have forced air, it’s very labor intensive to install new HVAC, and can take up a ton of space in your attic and may involve opening up some of your walls. There’s also the potential for duct leakage and just the overall cost of cooling every room of your house, even when you aren’t in a particular space.

Overall, there are ways to stay cool even when the odds are against you. I suppose the next time I’m looking for a home, I will consider these options more carefully. I ended up choosing the ductless air conditioning option for my home, and my next post will cover the pros and cons of this option in much more detail!

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