Help me chill out
July 22, 2015 12:51 PM   Subscribe

I need to create more (some) airflow in my apartment. I will be using fans. What's the best way to do this?

I have a bachelor apartment, and only two of my windows open, one at the front (living room) and one at the back (kitchen); both are small. I can't get a cross-breeze, because air comes in (and/or out) from the windows in opposite directions - it'll either be blowing in through both windows at the same time, or out (at the same time), which makes most of the apartment a bank of hot, still, humid air.

I thought I might try to get two twin window fans with reversible airflow and exhaust, something like this or this. Good idea? If so, which fans are best (most effective, reliable, quiet)?

Are those as powerful as I have a feeling I need them to be, though? Would it be better to get a monster fan like this and place that in front of the living room window, and one of those twin fans in the kitchen? (No room for another big fan there.) If this makes sense, do I want the monster fan directing air in or out?

Finally, the bed and sofa are out of the hoped-for air path. How do I get air to move around the apartment? More fans? Where?

My windows are too weird to install a window A/C without major [lease-breaking] hacking, and the decent portable ones are out of my budget, too heavy for me to even get up the stairs, and too big to store.

(I haven't seen any airflow questions addressing the twin window fans I'm looking at; sorry if they exist and I missed them.)
posted by cotton dress sock to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Put a large box fan (we just bought one for $25 at Fred Meyer) in the living room window, and whatever fan will fit in the kitchen window. One fan should be blowing IN while the other blows OUT. It may take some experimenting with which direction works best, and changing the direction of airflow at different times of day may help.

In my experience, those reversible fans aren't large enough to make a difference, so if you get one with two fans, just set them to go in the same direction.
posted by Specklet at 1:10 PM on July 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have a pair of those twin fans set up on either end of my house to move air through: the twin on the shady side of the house are set to suck in while the twin on the sunny side are set to blow out and then I reverse the fans' direction in the afternoon after the sun hits the shady side. I like the twin fans design because I don't have to move anything beyond a switch to reverse the airflow and because they fit so neatly into sliding window sills.

In total volume of air being moved, they aren't anywhere as effective as box fans but the twins have the advantage of being not requiring your window to be wide open and only half covered by a fan because you can snug down the opening on a sliding window to just encompass the width of the fans' casing. I never use the feature of one fan blowing in while the other one blows out, it's best to use them in parallel.

Brand-wise, mine are both random ~$20 big-box store purchases (SMC, Pelonis), one is ~10 years old, the other is ~8. Both are quieter than our collection of equally cheap box and oscillating fans.
posted by jamaro at 1:17 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Specklet. Placing box fans IN the window frame and closing off the rest of the window is the key. Putting them on the floor in front of an open window does nothing.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:20 PM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thank you!

I think the dimensions of the part of the living room window that opens are around 17-20ish" wide & 11" tall. (Estimating, not at home, but really, it's teensy.) Does the box fan have to fit exactly within that space, or can it be bigger and set directly in front of the window? I don't think there are many small fans with much power.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:47 PM on July 22, 2015

I have almost the exact Holmes fan you linked. It does a charm vertically in a narrow/tall window. I "push" the air from my window AC in the living room through bedroom door (located diagonally across long room) with a Vornado knock off table top fan placed atop a stool midway through room. Most nights, makes it bearable. Some nights, I sleep on c ouch in front of the AC.
posted by TravellingCari at 2:21 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Does the box fan have to fit exactly within that spac

My "best" window (on a part of the house that's always shaded) doesn't open quite enough. I put a fan on the sill and made a cover of cardboard for the rest of the open window. Seems to work pretty well. Well enough that I can tell whether it's pointed in or out by whether the Magic Mesh screen hanging in front of my sliding glass door sucks slightly into the house or blows slightly out.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:30 PM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

I can't get a cross-breeze, because air comes in (and/or out) from the windows in opposite directions - it'll either be blowing in through both windows at the same time, or out (at the same time), which makes most of the apartment a bank of hot, still, humid air.

Sounds like you may have ventilation. Perhaps a vent above the stove, or one in the bathroom? Or perhaps the seal around the door to your place isn't tight? In any case, if it's true that BOTH windows blow air out at the same time — you'll need to test this for like a half-hour after you open the windows to really know what the real flow is — you MIGHT be able to have a fan in each window blowing out, which would then pull air through whatever is giving you the pressure tower-effect that you have now. I sometimes feel air coming down out of the vent above my stove when I have a pulling fan in the bathroom window and all the other doors and windows closed, so it may work for you. But it's not going to be a very high cooling volume.

In any case, it's worth reiterating that if you're cooling a whole home, then the strongest fan on the hottest side should blow out. At no point should all fans blow inward.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:41 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Or perhaps the seal around the door to your place isn't tight?

The kitchen and bathroom fans are wimpy (not sure the bathroom one goes anywhere; the kitchen fan doesn't have a duct, it's got one of those replaceable filters), but you're right, there's a 1" gap under the front door. I've got weatherstripping there, but it probably isn't a perfect seal.

It's a witchy non-wind, for sure - I've burned incense in front of both windows and watched the smoke move as described.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:51 PM on July 22, 2015

Have you ever tried just a basic floor or desk fan, combined with the occasional water spray from one of these on your face/body? I've not found a better way of cooling down when it's hot. I've lived in plenty of apartments where it was just impossible to get any sort of breeze through no matter how hard I tried.
posted by derbs at 3:25 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can't handle the heat. I spend an extraordinary amount of time coming up with hairbrained ventilation schemes for my chronically unairconditioned domiciles. I've come up with a solution that takes some working, but seems to work great in every terribly hot apartment i've had.

Sit down for a second, cause I'm gonna go ahead and say it. Fuck fans.

I don't think there are many small fans with much power.

This is the issue; there are not fans with that much power. There are other nouns that move air, which are small and are actually more powerful. The search term you want to look for is "ventilator" or "blower." Fans are terrible. Blowers are the goddamn holy grail of moving air from one place to another.

Neither is as cheap as a box fan, but both are phenomenal. They're also not really meant to be used all the time, because they're louder than box fans or other lamesauce civilian fans. These are meant to be used during the wee hours of the morning to cool your house down as much as possible. To control when they turn on and off, you're going to want one of these.

Find your blower (I personally like the harbor freight model…notably cheaper, slightly louder, but form factor works a bit better, it doesn't have an impeller like a proper blower, but it can move some serious square footage of air). Find a friend who will cut you some boards up with an opening the size of the blower. You're going to want a board that fits exactly in your window, with a hold cut in it that will snuggly fit your blower, and then you can either get fancy and join another board to it to create an L shape, or you can just go buy some big fat ugly ass L brackets and do the same thing. Hook the blower up to your controller so that it goes off during the hour when you feel it will be the coolest (typically 5-8am in my area, YMMV). Place the blower on the L brackets facing out. open your other window and let the timer do its work. This will cool down your house in short order. We had a two bedroom apartment, and this setup would pull air into the whole house like an attic fan.

Seriously. Blowers.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:16 PM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ha! I really love this idea, furnace.heart! I'm persuaded by the power argument. (One of those things apparently dries carpets after flood damage, and I believe GoodGuy from Undisclosed when he reports that he "Never had something blow this hard.") Only thing is, my place is small (480 sq. ft), and my ears would be ~ six feet from the blower. A fact I regret. (Flagged as fantastic for inventiveness, btw.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:29 PM on July 22, 2015

Update: there were just one too many compromises wrt the fans I have or could find (underpowered; overloud; didn't fit my tiny windows) for the wind-tunneling purpose I intended. Among non-blower fan-related solutions, the only one that helped was having one pointed at me, as derbs suggested, or the ice bucket / fan setup I used last year, which is a PITA. I caved and got a used portable A/C. Recommended.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:42 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

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