My beautiful new apartment is an oven: How can I keep it cool?
January 18, 2014 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Just moved into a wonderful new apartment that the lady friend and I are in love with. Fantastic neighbors, perfect location, amazing view. Except that we face the lovely California sunshine and the temperature difference during the day can literally be 20 degrees or more. I work from home quite a bit and I've actually taken to working on the stoop because when its 65 outside, it can be 85-90 inside. What can we do to keep it cool? Deets inside.

The windows are typical LA, single pane and thin. The floors are concrete which, I think, is part of our problem- They catch and hold the heat. We have an AC unit, but it can only do so much and I loathe to have it running all day.

Are there DIY, simple window treatments that could help? I'm not above blocking the windows entirely if there's some kind of reflective material I could buy. We have heavy wooden shades right now that block most of the beams, but the radiant heat is still intense.

posted by GilloD to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Light-blocking drapes with white material facing out will do a much better job reflecting that heat than dark wood shades, which are just absorbing it.
posted by Mizu at 10:47 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you have windows facing in two directions? Getting a few box fans to circulate air through a space has always worked pretty well for me.
posted by catalytics at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ideally, prevent the heat from getting in in the first place. A duvet is white, which will reflect the heat, and also insulative. Draping one over the window will cut down on a lot of the problem. It's also likely to be light enough to hang over whatever fittings you have in place already. Put them up early in the day and take them down late.

Dark things will radiate more heat than light things.

Take advantage of the cooler night air. Open up your windows very early in the morning (or leave them open overnight), to let the cooler air circulate through. Close them again when it starts to heat up outside, and cover the windows with the duvet. If you have a skylight or other opening at the top of your house, open that too to draw the cooler air in.

Make sure your A/C is venting properly. It needs to be sending the heat outside, ideally to somewhere the wind is moving to help shed the heat. If you can, have the A/C running in just one room that you hole yourself up in. The smaller this room is the better. Larger rooms will use more energy to cool down and will take longer to do so. Opening the door and letting the heat back in will also not help.

There's also a DIY option that you could use if you're staying in one place a lot.
posted by Solomon at 11:05 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have this problem too, with our west-facing living room windows.

AC works really poorly this time of year because the air is so dry. There's just nothing to wring out of it.

Eclipse curtains help the most, though we have resorted to foil in late August when it's the usual sun plus actually being warm outside. There is reflective film - both adhesive and also cling, which is perfect for renters - you can put on the windows as well, though it is not the cheapest option. I've never seen it in stores, but I have seen it on amazon. I've seen people in the nearby apartments hang those rattan roll-up blinds outside in front of their patio windows, if your landlord approved and you had a place to hang them from, you could do that instead. Keeping the sun from hitting the windows in the first place would be the best option.

Do you have a screened front door? That makes the biggest breeze if you've got windows at least on a diagonal if not on the opposite side, and if you can get enough of the cool outside air circulating it at least keeps the windows from turning into radiant heaters so badly. We do not have a screen, but we still open the door, put a dog gate in it, and I work at a table I can see the door from, so nobody's walking up without me noticing.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:20 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is tinted window film available at Lowe's which will reflect some of the heat before it enters. Any of the insulating curtains will help, especially in a light color.

Anything that also provides a second thermal envelope at the windows will help. Can you install lexan sheets on the inside?

To mitigate the concrete heat-sink, place a light colored rug where the sun hits.
posted by mightshould at 11:25 AM on January 18, 2014

My previous apartment in LA had a a 2 story window with a southern exposure and I had similar issues when I first moved in. My home office was upstairs and since I work from home, I started running into problems with heat. I didn't want to block my windows because aside from the impact on the apartment's temperature, the light was awesome. I ended up finding that the best solution was to establish a breeze between an unlit area and the lit area. Once even a minor circulation was set, it seemed to diminish the effects nearly entirely, even during the height of summer. I used a couple of the smaller Vornados and with an appropriate arrangement, it was enough to leave them on low during all but the absolute hottest days. It also helped a lot to throw a humidifier into the mix when it was really hot.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Angeleno here. You gotta get the air moving inside. Definitely think about which windows/doors can be open all day to provide cross ventilation. Also, does your AC/heat unit have a fan setting? We use that all the time to draw cooler outside air into the house.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Open the windows at night, close them during the day (with blinds).

Don't use fans during the day, they will just heat up the air that is there.

Change your lightbulbs to CFL type so they won't emit heat, just light.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:54 AM on January 18, 2014

Angeleno here who lives in a top floor unit with lots of windows, in a flat-roof building, sans AC.

I MacGuyver'd a set of automotive windshield shades (the oval ones that are reflective on one side) to fit into my window frames during the hot times of day. It's homely but inexpensive and effective, and I can pop them out after the sun fucks off.

I also deploy multiple Vornado fans (the classic round black ones) to get the air moving and grooving through the whole place. Sometimes I prop them in the open windows, one facing outward, one facing inward.

I leave windows open, and crack open my doors to the exterior.
posted by nacho fries at 12:22 PM on January 18, 2014

My kitchen has has a large bay window which gets unrelenting western sun. I used the diy solar film from Lowes with very good results. My kitchen is now useable in the summer!
posted by cat_link at 12:35 PM on January 18, 2014

If you're open to blocking 90% of the light, at least for part of the day, you could use Reflectix. It's the reflective bubble wrap stuff so it reflects (because it's shiny) and insulates (because there's a layer of air in there). But it'll be dark inside so you'll have to go outside from time to time to get some light...
posted by powpow at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2014

I use mylar blankets behind my rattan blinds on our west facing windows in downtown LA.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:32 PM on January 18, 2014

This is why people have functioning shutters in traditionally hot climates. You open the windows, reach out to close the shutters, and then close the windows again. This keeps the sun from coming through the glass in the first place. Recommended.
posted by waldo at 5:59 PM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Draw your curtains in the morning before the sun hits those windows. A dark house is a cool house. Open the curtains in the evening (or when the sun is no longer shining directly in) along with your windows to let in any cooling evening breezes. Make sure your curtains are nice thick insulating ones with a reflective lining and not whispy thin ones.

If you can afford it some sort of outside blind you can roll down or out is better as it stops the heat from ever getting into your house but you can still have a view, but that might be hard to install in a rental apartment.

My 74 yo old mother just survives Australian summers in an un air conditioned house with huge windows simply by judicious use of her many curtains and blinds. OK this last heat wave it hit like 45C so she she did spend one afternoon sitting in a bath of water with ice cubes in and another day hid at a airconditioned movie theatre, but for the most part she manages the heat with blinds and curtains.
posted by wwax at 9:22 PM on January 18, 2014

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