Fan of Fans (& other passive cooling techniques)

Last week was hot here in Davis, the sort of hot we have had mercifully little of this summer, where the day time temperature hovers woozily around and above the century mark.  The payoff for these blistering days is the perfect night temperature and the frequently wide open skies.  It was while I was enjoying the starry skies in my yard that I noticed the stereophonic phenomenon of the air conditioning switching on at both of my neighbors homes nearly simultaneously.  Our house remained silent.

The houses are pretty similar, all 1952 ranch homes, born of the same footprints and lay out, but ours has some “special” features which allow us to keep our air conditioning turned off most of the time.

Luckily for us when we bought our home it came with a whole house fan. This is a big ol’ monster who lives in the attic and when we switch him on a vent opens up in the hallway ceiling. It sounds like perhaps an airplane is preparing to take off in our house.  Oh but that sound – that is the sound of cooler outside air being drawn into every room with an open window. Within ten minutes the house is cool. We run it for a while at night once the outside air has cooled, and again in the morning before the outside air heats up, and then we close up the house against the heat of the day.

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(Disclaimer – we have not worked with the vendor linked above as I had not heard of them until looking for supplemental information to include about whole house fans. Nevertheless, I appreciate how clearly their information is presented!)

The other cooling features of our house are the insulated walls, (one of the first things we did upon arrival to Davis was to drill holes into the exterior walls and shoot denim insulation throughout) and the Anderson dual pane windows which have replaced all of the original windows. These are year round improvements (cooler in summer, warmer in winter) that in addition to climate control provide some sound buffer too.


We also have a generous arbor to shade the south side of the house, and last but not least, a ceiling fan directly over the most frequently used table and desk space so that even when it does get up to eighty two degrees inside you don’t feel that stifling, thick


Of course there are other tricks I employ. I wait to run the dishwasher until night, we don’t bake during the day at all, and I try to cook as much as possible outdoors so that I don’t heat up the kitchen. All together they keep our house surprisingly comfortable when the world outside is hot enough to create a twenty to twenty five degree difference between out and in – leaving me a big fan of fans.


Ask the Expert 2022 – Matt K.

MAK's own Matt K. was featured this year as SacTown magazine's construction expert. Read an extended version of his expert advice here!

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