Maybe I should just live in a walk-in fridge
May 31, 2011 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Even though I have central air, my large and sunny room is too hot for my heat-sensitive self. What strategies can I employ in order to keep it more tolerable in this hot, humid Jersey summer?

I guess this sounds silly- I was so excited to move into this new place with its fancy central air, but everyone else in the house seems to like to keep the thermostat at 79 degrees. In my big (13'x18') sunny (4 large windows) room, this becomes 82-86 degrees. I am happiest at 66 degrees. I know this is unattainable, and I would be super happy if I could get it down to 72-75 degrees in here.

Things I already have done: ceiling fan on, blinds tilted up to reflect the sun away, as little usage of lighting as possible, not blocking the two AC vents.

Things that might work? Light reflecting/blocking window treatments, standing air conditioner, dehumidifier, more fans, other random things I haven't heard of or thought of.

I considered just asking my roommates if I could keep the thermostat lower and offering to pay more, but the house is very large and I think this would become expensive quickly- not to mention that it seems like this room is just naturally warmer.

So, what can I do with this lovely but too-warm room?
posted by rachaelfaith to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have a somewhat similar problem in my house. The thermostat is downstairs, but the bedrooms (where I want it to be cool) are upstairs.

Do the vent covers in your room have those hinged flaps that you can use to close off the vent with? Rip those out completely -- even in the fully open position, they restrict the airflow somewhat.

Following that (or if that isn't an option), close or restrict vents in other areas of the house. You can't really get more cooling to your room directly, but you can arrange less cooling for the rest of the house, which will make the A/C run longer to maintain 79 at the thermostat, and thus your room will be cooler.
posted by FishBike at 4:17 PM on May 31, 2011

Three words: portable air conditioner. Got mine at Home Depot for $250 and it will go with me the rest of my days. My is energy efficient and will maybe cost $50 a year in electricity to operate. They have a bunch for different sized rooms, so you may need a larger one, but I just linger closer to fan and it has worked great.
posted by SoulOnIce at 4:17 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Those portable air conditioners really won't jack up the electricity bill if I buy an EnergyStar type one? That is looking like a good option if that's true.. in the meantime, grabbing a screwdriver to take the vents off.
posted by rachaelfaith at 4:22 PM on May 31, 2011

You want a portable air conditioner, not a dehumidifier. The dehu will actually make the room significantly warmer. (They work on the same principle as an air conditioner but dump all their heat right into the room. Bad. A portable AC will have the side-effect of dehumidifying the air, though, which will make swamp coolers and misting fans feel significantly "cooler.")

There are several types of portable air conditioner you can buy ... but most are either window units or floor-standing ones with a flexible exhaust hose. The window units are cheaper and more efficient, but you need a window that opens the right way, and you need to be allowed to put one there. If that's a no-go, the freestanding ones with an exhaust hose are your next best bet.

Protip if you go that route ... the little plastic things they give you for mounting the exhaust hose in the window are pretty crappy, and they don't insulate very well. If you go to Home Depot you can buy a nice big sheet of 2 or 3" thick styrofoam for a few bucks. Cut it to fit the window and hose using a hot knife (best), electric knife (okay), or serrated bread knife (meh). Put some weatherstripping around the edges to make a good seal, and add duct tape as appropriate. You will save yourself quite a few BTUs if you do this, particularly if the window faces into the sun. You can reuse it year after year too, if you're gentle with it and you always put it back in the same window.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:24 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

FishBike has some good advice up there. You will not get the room to 72-75 degrees (absent outside intervention) without tricking the thermostat into thinking it is warmer than 79. So, first see if you can increase the airflow into your room and restrict it elsewhere in the house. Next, put some heavy dense curtains up over the windows. They will be uglier than your blinds, but they will have better insulative power. A window air conditioner will be helpful. You need the cold air going into the room, but you need the hot air that is exchanged out to be exhausted to the outside. The laws of physics say that you cannot get the room cooler unless you can remove the heat from the room. If you use a window air conditioner, make sure that the drapes for that window come all the way down to, but not over the air conditioner. Also, close the door to your room while the window A/C is on. This will help isolate you from the rest of the (warmer) house.
posted by Old Geezer at 4:25 PM on May 31, 2011

i know one of the awesome things about windows is all the sunlight - but my bedroom, which has curtains (with a heavy blocking layer) is easily 5-10 degrees cooler than my no-curtain living room at the hotter points of the day. block the sun and you'll take care of a lot of residual heat.
posted by nadawi at 4:27 PM on May 31, 2011

My solution (in an attic in upstate NY, 86 degrees outside)

1. Put a 20" box fan in an open window
2. Sit three feet away from fan

This is actually pretty effective.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:31 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you are keeping your door closed all the time you could be restricting air flow by cutting off the return flow. try opening the door. It makes a huge difference in my home office.
posted by COD at 4:31 PM on May 31, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah, forgot to mention, my windows definitely aren't the type that I can stick an AC in. Are there any specific types of heat/sun-blocking curtains I should look for? Also, could I hang the curtains outside the blinds or should they be right up next to the window?

I'm trying to do a little as possible in terms of modifying the room itself. Will remember to keep the doors open while I'm gone (they're usually open when I'm home). Also time to run around the house and close off vents in places where people aren't usually hanging around.
posted by rachaelfaith at 4:33 PM on May 31, 2011

This doesn't work with your goal of not modifying the room itself, but I've experienced great happiness after installing a ceiling fan over my bed. They are not terrifically expensive and depending on your existing light fixture might actually be easy to install.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:39 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Blackout curtains. Does what it says on the tin.

Also, for yourself, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. More. Have another glass. It really does help. Also, cut back on the dairy.

Swamp cooler gets my vote, since I bet the a/c is taking up a bit of the moisture.
posted by bilabial at 4:41 PM on May 31, 2011

Can you ask one of your flatmates to swap rooms with you for the summer? (Possibly not, but worth asking...)
posted by finding.perdita at 4:42 PM on May 31, 2011

the curtains go on the inside of the blinds, so from the outside it goes window, blinds, curtains. i got heavy black canvas material from walmart and then a pretty blue stripe light fabric to go on the outside (so it doesn't look like i have black curtains from the street. one of my issues was also light, since i'm a day sleeper. they make thick, heavy, white curtains. really, you just need something solid and heavy.
posted by nadawi at 4:43 PM on May 31, 2011

One other idea ... if you can get one of those window fans that fits tightly in the window, and set it to exhaust, it might blow the hot air in your room out and pull more air in via the ductwork from other, cooler, parts of the house.

It's imperative for that to work that the fan fit tightly in the window. Otherwise you'll just trade warm air in the room for hot moist air from outside, sucked in from around the edges of the fan.

I'm not sure how well it would work or what the impact on your house energy bills would be, but it'd be a cheap fix to try before you go out and purchase a portable AC.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:05 PM on May 31, 2011

Do you own/have access to the outside of your windows? If so you should prevent heat from even penetrating the windows. External shutters would be great or you could slap on tints that block IR like these here.

Using internal blinds and curtains traps a lot of the heat right on the inside of the windows from where it can dissipate into the room.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:30 PM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: My old apartment had central air and a large, East-facing window in the main room. Every morning, I'd walk out of my nice, cool bedroom into a blazingly hot kitchen and living room because of that damned window. Electric bills were high because the hot room was the room with the thermostat and the AC never clicked off. Great for bedroom temperature, not so great for my wallet or anywhere else in the apartment.

I got a (sub $50) thermal-blocking-fabric-lined window shade from Target. It was heavy, extremely opaque, and thick. It was like magic. It blocked out the horrible, horrible sun, saved me money, and kept the living room nice and cool.

Definitely look into thermal-lined curtains.
posted by phunniemee at 5:41 PM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

2nding a portable in-window A/C unit and tinted window films.
posted by sninctown at 5:43 PM on May 31, 2011

I had a huge window once that I needed to insulate and I used a sheet of rigid foam insulation that I cut to fit perfectly in the interior opening, than I taped around the edges. Worked great and only cost a few dollars, as I found a sheet marked down because it had a broken corner. Didn't look real pretty.
posted by mareli at 7:02 PM on May 31, 2011

You, and the coldest roommate, will be much happier if you can switch rooms.
posted by amtho at 7:06 PM on May 31, 2011

Our house (in NJ) got significantly easier to cool once we got the attic fan fixed. Mind you, this wasn't a whole house fan, just a roof venting fan. We knew it was broken when we moved in but didn't see it as a priority. Darn, we recouped that $200 repair bill back several times over these past few years, plus the 2nd floor is more pleasant. I realize you may not have an attic or an attic fan, but you said you wanted to hear about things you may not have considered. Just FYI.
posted by forthright at 8:06 PM on May 31, 2011

Try heat reflecting window film. Home Depot usually carries a good selection of self install film.

Make sure your ceiling fan is switched over correctly. I don't remember which setting is which but having it set right can make a difference. (I think you want it to draw air up in the summer and push air down in the winter - my fan has a little sun icon by the switch so I just use that)
posted by jaimystery at 9:27 PM on May 31, 2011

Spent most of my life in sunny South Australia without air conditioning, the one thing I can't stress enough is to keep the heat out. You want thick thermal curtains, even better if you can put an awning up outside to stop the heat even getting to your windows. Trees or bushes are good for this too.

Make sure everything electrical is turned off completely, not just lights. You'd be amazed how much heat a computer or 2 can pump out.

You could always make my poor mans air conditioner, it consisted of a squirt bottle with iced water in and an electric stand fan. I would squirt the water up in the air so that it drifted down over me in a soft mist and the fan would evaporate it off. Not elegant but after my third week of over 110F temps I wasn't too worried about that.

If nothing else look at it this way, it will be a lovely warm room on a sunny winters day, and then you can pull those same curtains shut to keep the heat in at night.
posted by wwax at 10:02 PM on May 31, 2011

Response by poster: Ugh. It's 2 am and I woke up because of how hot I was. I suppose maybe it got worse because I closed the doors, but with roommates and my two doors leading to 1. the kitchen or 2. the front door, I can't exactly leave them open.

I thought I felt some relief after taking the vents off, but maybe I was just fooling myself. I put up some heavy, plastic-type backed curtains that I found in the closet, but I think I'll get some of that window film tomorrow after work.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:28 PM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: If a window unit is not possible there are several things you can do to sleep better with just a fan.

All cotton sheets make a difference. Apply baby powder before sleeping, you feel less sticky and cooler. The squirt bottle mentioned above works really well, as does a moist wash cloth which has been refrigerated. Keep the cloth in a bowl, lay across the body as needed and let the fan blow!

I've used a waterbed mattress made for dogs. Fill it with water and position it so it will be beneath your torso. Have it under your bottom sheet, over the mattress pad. This really helps your body stay cooler at night.
posted by cat_link at 3:25 PM on June 1, 2011

Also, those hot water bottles for keeping a bed warm?

You can put ice water in it. To keep the bed cool.
posted by bilabial at 7:28 PM on June 2, 2011

Response by poster: Okay, bit the bullet and bought the thermal curtains. They seem to be helping a bit, but not to a huge degree, although I think I just need a week of steady summer temperatures (not like the spiking 99-degree days lately) to gauge their usefulness.

I am also considering shifting my bed to be directly under the ceiling fan or just setting up an additional fan by the bed.

I'll probably continue to try other ideas listed here; thanks, all.
posted by rachaelfaith at 2:17 PM on June 9, 2011

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