It's like a sauna in here.
May 27, 2010 2:03 PM   Subscribe

What's the most effective and efficient way to keep our small apartment cool?

This question is similar to this one but specific to our small apartment. The last few days of unseasonably sweltering heat and humidity have been brutal. Our apartment has been getting boiling hot, and we're wondering how to best keep our place cool.

My partner and I have a small apartment, with one bedroom and an office. Three of our rooms (the kitchen, the bedroom, and the office) have ceiling fans that are capable of going either clockwise or counter-clockwise. We have windows in the kitchen and the living room which are roughly opposite each other, as well as windows on another wall in the bedroom and office. We also have small table fan that we keep in the bedroom. In addition to this, every year our landlord puts in a window-mounted A/C unit in the living room window. However, this only seems to keep the living room cool, is really loud, and eliminates any breeze we get from the kitchen through to the living room, so if there's a way to keep the place cool without it, that would be great.

I've posted this very, very crude diagram (obviously not to scale) of our apartment in the hopes that AskMe can help us to beat the heat.

What should we be doing to keep this place as cool as possible with what we have?
posted by synecdoche to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I found this website with a bunch of ideas.
posted by ian1977 at 2:11 PM on May 27, 2010

Do you have curtains over your windows? Keeping the sun out, especially from south and west facing windows, helps a lot. You don't say how your apartment is oriented, but if you are on the south side of the building as opposed to the north side, that will make a big difference.
posted by ambrosia at 2:24 PM on May 27, 2010

The Simple Dollar has this to say about ceiling fans: "During the summer, you should have your ceiling fans running on high with the air blowing down directly below the fan. This creates the most air movement in the center of the room, which is where you need it most for the “breeze” effect, which will feel cool on your skin." It also says that usually means counter-clockwise and that the fan is not moving much air unless the angle is at least 12 degrees.

Consider buying your own A/C unit that is not as loud and will probably cool better. If no one will be using the bedroom (or office) during the day, close the door. If there is significant space under the door, put a towel there. I had a two bedroom apartment and used two window A/C units to keep it cool.

Also be sure to block out the sun like ambrosia says.
posted by soelo at 2:27 PM on May 27, 2010

Response by poster: We don't have curtains but we have blinds that we keep closed all the time. Our apartment has three exterior walls, roughly north, east, and south.
posted by synecdoche at 2:28 PM on May 27, 2010

Window fans that can be set to either pull air in or push air out may help. We keep our house reasonably not-sweltering by doing this: opening all the windows when it cools down at night, running our whole-house fan (mounted in the attic) to pull cool air in, sleeping pleasantly, and then shutting the house down in the morning before it gets hot again. With good window fans, you could do a version of this, pulling the cool evening air in, leaving the windows open overnight, and then closing windows (and pulling curtains to block the sun coming in) early in the morning before things heat up again. The kind of window fan I'm thinking off looks like this.

This works pretty well. It doesn't help with humidity, and if you get into one of those sweltering patches where it doesn't cool off at night, that's trouble. But for most purposes it does pretty well.
posted by not that girl at 2:38 PM on May 27, 2010

I'm going through the same heat wave. What we've done is open the house up at night, and lock it up during the day, as not that girl suggested. Opening both the kitchen and living room windows will allow you to get a nice cross breeze in.

What floor is your apartment on? If you can keep your windows open all night safely, you'll see the best results.
posted by valoius at 2:45 PM on May 27, 2010

You need to open up all of the windows at night, obviously, and then close them at sunrise to keep that east sun out of your apartment. I went a little OCD in my previous place while trying to figure out how to keep it cool since I had no AC. I learned that the temperature didn't hit its lowest point until right around sunrise, but as soon as the sun started to hit the floor, the temperature in my place started to rise again.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:08 PM on May 27, 2010

A lot of sunlight still gets in through blinds. If you can afford them, some basic curtains make a HUGE difference in insulation. Open everything up at night to cool down the apartment and then insulate in the morning. It may be worth the investment since curtains also help keep things toasty in the winter.

Hot air rises, so for maximum circulation run your ceiling fans so that they are blowing air down.

Consider light colored coverings for your furniture. A white throw on your dark couch, for example, can make a big difference in perceived temperature if it gets sun throughout the day. Also, a light rug can make a huge difference.

I would nix the AC if I were you, or move it to your bedroom or office, depending on which room you spend the most time in during the day. The crossbreeze will do more to promote comfort in that half of the apartment, and you can turn your office or bedroom into an icebox retreat without sacrificing the breeze.
posted by Mizu at 3:39 PM on May 27, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips so far. More data: we have been keeping the windows open pretty much all the time, and are on the third floor. The breezeway (the kitchen to the living room) is north - south; the bedroom window faces east.
posted by synecdoche at 3:46 PM on May 27, 2010

One of my friends has used Aluminium foil to cover his windows, it reflects the sun back outside and helps to keep the house cooler.

In my apartment, I open the windows opposite each other after the sun goes down and it immediately cools the house within an hour. This would be useful for your living room and kitchen windows, cross ventilation is a huge life saver from the heat.

Another option, I have used in the past is getting a 20 inch box fan and using it on the windows in the any room to pull air in from outside in the evenings.
posted by VickyR at 4:16 PM on May 27, 2010

I have hung bedsheets from spring rods in doorways to close off door-less rooms (like a kitchen) to manage a one-unit air conditioned apartment.
posted by kidelo at 4:49 PM on May 27, 2010

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