A friend of ours had a farm just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. While it once supported a cattle operation, he switched to mainly growing hay. He was active in the community, and lent the use of the property to church groups for picnics, and business groups for team building. Each year, Boy Scouts from the region headed to the farm for a three-day camping jamboree.
One of the buildings on the farm was an old barn, and he completely renovated it. After removing the stalls, he put in a hardwood floor that could be used as a dance floor. It was large enough that he installed a basketball hoop at one end. He converted the hay loft into an office space. When you visited the farm with your group, the barn was where you went to the restroom or broke for lunch.
One of his farm hands was an engineering student at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, and he came up with an ingenious method for eliminating the need for air conditioning.
During the renovation, he dug a deep trench around the building and filled it with gravel and river stone. He put a wind turbine on top of the building, and that generated electricity. The turbine also pulled water from the trench. The cool water would be pulled up to the crest of the barn’s tin roof, and then run down the sides to drip into the trench. This constantly circulated water, cooled from being deep underground, kept the roof – and hence the building – cool enough that a few ceiling fans inside were enough to do the rest.
When we build a custom home for a client, we offer them the latest in home HVAC technology. We emphasize the importance of thermal windows, and investing in proper insulation. We believe in smart use of utilities, and energy efficiency.
While we don’t dig trenches and erect windmills, we do offer you some tips for keeping your home cooler during the dog days of summer…
Invest in shades
Sunlight is a coolness killer. While we all love a sunlit kitchen for our morning coffee or enjoying a glass of wine with a beautiful sunset, daytime sun will warm every surface it touches, raising the temperature of your home. This is especially important for any side of your home that receives direct sunlight.
Ceiling Fans – the Right Way
A light breeze seems to lower temperatures no matter how hot it may be. Your ceiling fans can create that breeze. It also has two settings (in addition to the speed of the blades). During the summer months, your fans should rotate counter-clockwise. This will push air down to cool you, and the speed need not be turbo. Switch them in the winter to draw warmer air up.
Plant a Tree
Mature trees add a ton to the outdoor appeal of a home. They’re also natural air conditioners. Trees collect moisture (through carbon dioxide) and sunlight as food. Warm air passing over the leaves of trees is collected there instead of the exterior walls of your home. Strategically planted trees also keep the exterior of your home in the shade during the hottest times of the day.
Use Your Patio
The kitchen is generally the heart of the home. It also generates a lot of ambient heat every time you cook. Take advantage of the weather and use your grill. You’ll get a tasty steak out of it and keep the heat outside.
Use Your Thermostat
Many of the custom homes we build use multi-zone HVAC systems. This means that there are designated systems dedicated to different areas of the home. We also encourage our clients to invest in smart thermostats. More importantly, we encourage them to learn how to use them. It’s fine and good to set them at a comfortable temperature and leave them, but they generally have the ability to be programmed. You can program them to raise and lower the temperature to reflect your lifestyle and temperature needs. If you like a cool bedroom, program it to lower when you go to bed. In the winter, you can warm up the kitchen before you start your coffee in the morning.
Central Virginia can be brutal in the summer. Between the heat and the humidity, it can make getting the mail an exhausting proposition. But making some smart choices around your home can keep you cool as a cucumber.