How do I keep my room cool despite south-facing, vertical, out-ward opening windows?
May 10, 2007 8:19 PM   Subscribe

This summer I, unfortunately, will be living in my old bedroom at my parent's house. To make matters worse, it gets ridiculously humid/hot in my room (the A/C doesn't make any difference at all.) A window-mounted A/C unit won't fit in my vertical, outward opening "french" windows and while I've considered a "personal air conditioner" the hose poses a similar problem with my windows, a problem I'm hoping to solve. I look to you, AskMeFi reader, to make my summer stay a little more bearable.

I'm really dreading living back at home, I was there a couple of days ago and it was already pretty humid and gross in my room. Additionally, my parents have acquired a dog and a cat since I've been at school and not only am I allergic to them, I just hate them. So bonus points if your solution allows me to keep my door shut. The cat's a jumper, so no barricade I've been able to produce has been capable of keeping him out.

But back to the problem at hand:

If I buy one of those expensive "personal air conditioners" I'm concerned about the hose you're supposed to stick outside. My window, which only opens on the right side, has a full-size screen on it and opens outward. Its south-facing, so it pretty much gets constant sunlight. If I take the screen off, I'm inviting all sorts of bugs into my bedroom. Plus the height of the window itself would probably negate the hose's exhaust or the effects of the air conditioner. So short of cutting a hole in a big slab of plywood and covering my window, I'm at a loss.

Is there any way to do this? Are you aware of another solution that doesn't involve a personal A/C unit? I'm desperate here.
posted by Becko to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think you will have to make some sort of baffle to cover the window opening. If you don't have the means to cut a piece of plywood, perhaps a chunk of foamcore or tranlucent/transparent plexiglass judiciously taped would do the trick.
posted by davey_darling at 8:31 PM on May 10, 2007

My friend hooked up an illegal air conditioner in his dorm with similar windows by using ductape and plastic sheeting of some sort. It worked pretty well. It was one of the personal air conditioners that you mentioned.
posted by nursegracer at 8:49 PM on May 10, 2007

Have you considered getting a dehumidifier? It won't solve all your problems, but it will help.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:59 PM on May 10, 2007

Wow. This is creepy, because I'm looking at trying to install an AC unit into a similar window as well. I'll be interested to see what people have to say.

I went down to BJs (local warehouse club, similar to Costco but not as nice) earlier today and had a look around. They had a few units, manufactured by Haier (giant Chinese-government-owned industrial conglomerate, *sigh*) including one under $300 that seemed like it would fit the bill.

Basically, most of the "portable" air conditioners -- the ones with dryer-ish hoses that connect to the window -- will work in a vertically-opening sliding window, as long as the window opening is less than 48" tall. Basically, they all come with a rectangular panel that either accordions out to various widths, or is made of a material that can be cut to fit [1], and has a hole in it for the hose. You put this panel into the window, vertical or horizontal, and close the sash.

The one type of window that they won't work in, is a "casement style" window (one where the window is hinged and opens like a door, with a crank), because in order to plug up the hole that's formed when the window is opened, you'd need three pieces, instead of just one. If you have that kind of window, you're well and truly screwed on non-destructive installation options. Your best bet is probably to remove a pane of glass and replace it with wood or plastic with a hole in it.

So anyway, just because you have a vertical window, the portable A/C units are your friend. As long as it's a sliding (not pivoting, casement type) window, and it's less than 48" tall, you should be able to use the panels that come with most units.

[1] The "Sunpentown" portable ACs seem to come with 1" thick foam that you cut to fit the width (horizontal window) or height (vertical sliding window) desired. The Haier and other brands come with plastic pieces that either slide or accordion to fit. The Sunpentown people claim the foam is better and insulates better, but it's less portable.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:00 PM on May 10, 2007

Is there space on the lawn to pitch a tent?
posted by 9000.68 at 9:00 PM on May 10, 2007

Unfortunately, Kadin2048, it is one with a crank. It opens just like a door. It seems as though I'll have to craft some sort of over-window-thing and get some nice drapes from IKEA or something.
posted by Becko at 9:09 PM on May 10, 2007

Many manufacturers make casement-style window air conditioners, specifically to address these type of windows. They are narrower and taller than most other window units. Unfortunately, they are also more expensive. Sears has some, under the "Specialty" category.
posted by bedhead at 9:10 PM on May 10, 2007

I looked here but did find an exact solution to your dilemma.

Personally, I'd just cut a hole in the screen. It is ridiculously easy to rescreen a window, assuming the screen sits in a metal frame. Get a little strip of foam or pipe insulation or something like that to sandwich between the now-slightly-ajar window doors, wrap some wire around the handles to winch it all shut, and you're frickin' golden.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 9:19 PM on May 10, 2007

Why not take a piece of plexiglass or some other sheet of clear plastic, cut it to the same size as (or a bit smaller than) the screen, cut a hole in it for the hose, and then flex the plastic to slip it into the slot where the screen normally sits? You aren't going to get a perfect seal, but it will probably be good enough (or you can use a little bit of tape or putty to seal the edges). Alternatively, you could tape a piece of plastic right onto the metal screen frame with a hole in it for the hose and just let it run through the screen.
posted by ssg at 9:31 PM on May 10, 2007

Yeah, window screen is cheap.

I'd say build ya a DIY aircon for $25 bucks, place it so it draws air from the window, run its discharge hose out through a tiny hole in the screen, and wallow in your newfound homebrew coolth.

Obviously, the mindset that likes this sort of thing is not necessarily concerned with nice drapes from Ikea. But I thought I'd get it on the table. And think of the bragging rights: 'Yeah, I built myself an aircon this summer, how 'bout you?'
posted by eritain at 9:32 PM on May 10, 2007

I have a window like this, only the screens are in two parts and slide like a sliding class door. The first summer I lived in my Baltimore rowhouse without a conditioner I kept a fan running pointed outside, I turned on the ceiling fan, I kept a small fan pointed at my face at night, and I slept naked, occasionally waking up to curse and adjust the sweaty sheets and pillow.

The second summer I began dating a housemate whose room had windows appropriate for an air conditioner. As this arrangement involved both air conditioning and sex I would suggest this option, except it would mean dating one of your parents.
posted by schroedinger at 9:40 PM on May 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

Suggestion: Don't cut a hole in the screen, instead pull up a corner of the screen (either from the nails(?) or just as close to the edge as possible). More chance of patching without a special trip to the screen store, and you can use, e.g., piece of cardboard to pad out the pipe and keep your room bug-free.

You can get decent-ish results, also, from opening your windows with a fan in front at night and closing (and covering with a shade) during the have to be really religious about opening the second it gets cooler outside and closing as soon as the sun is really up. (Also sometimes at night it will get really freaking cold...this is your friend! Just huddle under a blanket while your fan sucks cold air in to your room.)

Also replace any incandescent lights with florescent (if you can afford it). Makes a huge difference.
posted by anaelith at 9:52 PM on May 10, 2007

If the central air uses forced air floor ducts, you could get a register booster. It's a powered fan which draws the air from the ductwork towards vents which are not being properly serviced by incorrectly sized central air.

I got mine at home depot for $40 CDN and it works great for the summer and even came in handy for the heating in the winter. Can be a bit noisy, but the ambient noise is no worse than a window A/C noise.
posted by sonicgeeza at 10:29 PM on May 10, 2007

How about installing a ceiling fan in your room?

Is your window one solid sheet or is it possible to remove a pane of glass? If you can remove one small pane, then you could replace that with a piece of plexi with a hole in it, and stick the hose out that.

Alternatively, if your house has has central air, try shutting the dampers on the air vents that lead to mostly cool parts of the house (like the basement, or lower levels). This will boost air flow to the rest of your house. Also, make sure the damper to your room is fully open (it could have been closed during the winter to prevent it from getting too hot). You could also get a register fan, to boost whatever cool air is being in from the A/C.

Otherwise, drop some money on a really good hi-quality QUIET fan, like one of those Vornado.
posted by hooray at 10:30 PM on May 10, 2007

Also, if the room doesn't have a return into the ductwork, you can install a vent in the door so that the main house return can pull airflow through the door without you needing to keep it open.
posted by sonicgeeza at 10:32 PM on May 10, 2007

Apologies for my terrible grammar. I meant, "one of those Vornado fans." I'm not even going to try fixing that second paragraph.
posted by hooray at 10:32 PM on May 10, 2007

I survived some incredibly hot and humid days here in Chicago. While bodies were overflowing from the city morgues in 1995, I was out digging ditches and spreading mulch. It took me a while before I realized I was the only guy stupid enough to be outside working.

I managed it by freezing a few large bottles of water and drinking them throughout the day. They were big enough to remain frozen for hours on end. At home, I'd keep one by my bed.

That, coupled with a fan at close range, kept me relatively comfortable.
posted by aladfar at 10:53 PM on May 10, 2007

Does your parent's house have a basement, and would they let you live down there?

I'm not trying to be a smart-alek; I just remember that when I tried to move into my parent's basement (when I was ten, and was living in the dining room because we'd run out of bedrooms) the deal-breaker was that it couldn't be heated effectively...
posted by davejay at 10:54 PM on May 10, 2007

You can set up a pretty decent airflow system with two box fans. Put one in the doorway during the day to pull cooler air from the rest of the house in (and, if it's not too warm [don't want to let too much heat in through the window], in the window to suck the hot air out, making basically a breeze through your room). This will keep the cat out, too. As soon as it's cool enough (I'd get one of these guys to easily monitor the difference), switch the direction of the airflow to pull the cool air in through the window, and out the door. For those particularly horrendous days/nights, a little oscillating vertical fan by your bed is great.

I've survived 4 summers in my ridiculously hot room at my parents and one reaaaaallly bad summer in a humid basement hellhole this way.
posted by messylissa at 11:18 PM on May 10, 2007

Are you aware of another solution that doesn't involve a personal A/C unit?

Stay away from air conditioning and fans -- they create heat, create noise, waste your money, waste natural resources, and cause pollution.

Try to make it a passive system. Put a screen door on your bedroom (air gets in, pets and most of their hair stay out), then rearrange the furniture so you have some visual privacy. If the cat's a clawer, make it a heavy-duty (but attractive) screen. No, don't give me that funny look. Plenty of people have always used screens in interior decoration. This would just be an extension of that concept. You could get something that's matches the interior.

Then make sure a good cross breeze is possible -- at least one other room (the landing?) on that floor needs good ventilation. Maybe another screen is needed?

Also, if you have a little cash and a big heart, now would be the time to give your parents a skylight that lets the hot air rise up and out of the house while drawing cool air in through lower windows. If it adds light to a dark area, it will also reduce the need for artificial lighting (thereby saving electricity, reducing heat generated by lighting, etc.). Make sure it is solid and sealed, so it doesn't waste heat in the winter.
posted by pracowity at 12:17 AM on May 11, 2007

Get a dehumidifier. When I was in art school in Sarasota, Florida (NO air conditioning in the dorm then!) one of my classmates had one in her room and it really made a difference.
posted by konolia at 5:52 AM on May 11, 2007

I had one of those portable/personal ACs, and went through all manner of hell to create and install a whole new window-in-window so I could vent it out my 5-foot-tall casement window, and after all that what I discovered was -- it really didn't do a good job of cooling. (Like, it just sort of blew hot/humid air around.) There's a fair amount of stuff out on the internet from others who've had this experience, which I'd ignored, because I *wanted* it to work so much.

I'd second all the advice re: fans, cross-ventilation, dehumidifiers, etc., rather than going through the expense and hassle to get a portable A/C installed, unless the place you're buying it from is willing to let you return it if it doesn't give you the results you want.
posted by Kat Allison at 6:00 AM on May 11, 2007

Can you put an awning outside over your window to keep the sun off? Lots of older (pre-AC) houses had these, often made of corrugated metal, and they are still available. The metal ones have a vintage-y, retro look, but canvas ones might be an option depending on the type of house. Also, I think you can get canvas awnings that can be retracted or rolled up.

An awning will reduce the heat load significantly and then your other options (fan, dehumidifer, etc) will be more effective.

You might even talk to your parents about getting awnings for all the windows (so the house looks more unified and it's not just your window looking odd), and they could probably save a bundle on air-conditioning the whole place.
posted by Quietgal at 7:41 AM on May 11, 2007

We had casement windows with cranks at my old apartment - All I had to do to fit a casement AC unit was to unscrew the end of the rod (coming from the crank) that attached to the bottom of the window so it would swing out fully - Non destructive, and only took a few minutes.
posted by jalexei at 8:13 AM on May 11, 2007

One cheap and ugly solution is to get to the home center and purchase a sheet of cellotex. It's a foam board insulator with a shiny side. Cut to fit into the windows. While it will darken the room, it will also reflect most of the heat entering through the windows.
posted by kc0dxh at 8:35 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

A successful summer would be to recognize the blessings of family, to accept animals, and to show them all that you intend to stay. See the animals not as competitors, but more like little brothers and sisters. Animals will sense your kind feelings and nature will reward you. Open up your windows and let a draft cool your room if possible and spend your time enriching life in other ways than worrying about air conditioning.
posted by neatideas at 11:16 AM on May 11, 2007

A successful summer would be to recognize the blessings of family, to accept animals, and to show them all that you intend to stay. See the animals not as competitors, but more like little brothers and sisters. Animals will sense your kind feelings and nature will reward you. Open up your windows and let a draft cool your room if possible and spend your time enriching life in other ways than worrying about air conditioning.
Uh. I'm pretty sure that doesn't answer the question at all.

When I went to summer camp in North Carolina, my technique was to sleep with ONLY a sheet and a fan pointed directly at me. That helped quite a bit. I have a friend in NYC who uses two Vornado fans (no AC in his apartment), and they work perfectly.
posted by kdar at 11:41 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I almost forgot my best tip..... lots of showers... lots and lots... don't bother with drying off after, just throw a towel down on whatever you sit on and sit on that. With a fan pointed at you.
posted by anaelith at 11:59 PM on May 11, 2007

I'm stuck with a similar window and no posibility of installing AC. However, so far in the summer, I had not felt the horrible, horrible heat. I injured my toe a couple of weeks ago, and was advised by the doctor to apply ice to it three times a day, for 20 minutes intervals. And now that my foot is ok, I still keep using the ice pack at night, for 20 minutes before going to bed.
posted by irian at 9:41 PM on July 17, 2007

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