Old-fashioned Air Conditioning Provides Relief
Are you having to work hard to stay cool this summer? Well join the club. We had an extremely cold winter, a beautiful but short spring, and now we’re having an extremely hot and humid summer. Keeping cool can be challenging AND expensive. We’ve all been spoiled over the years by growing up with the convenience of air conditioning. But with the high cost of energy these days, I’ve decided to “unspoil” myself.
The Fulbright family consists of me, my wife Sherrie, six wonderful kids, one son-in-law, two dogs, and currently four kittens. Most of us live together in an old farm house on the Little Tallapoosa River. The earliest tax records I can find for the house date back to 1918. I’m sure the house is several years older than that. One thing I’ve discovered is that they didn’t make insulation in 1918….or if they did, they didn’t put it in my house. Needless to say, the winters are cold….and the summers are HOT!
In years past, I’ve had two choices. I could either pay $800 per month during the summer to run air conditioning…..or I could come home to see my lovely wife dripping with sweat. This summer, I drew a line in the sand. I would not pay another high power bill……and no more sweaty wife!
The first hot day of the year, I called one of my framers over and asked him to cut a huge hole in the middle of our kitchen ceiling. There was no longer room in the house for me and the heat and one of us had to go. We cut a 10 foot by 10 foot hole through the ceiling and all the way through the roof. A few days later, we had created a tower that protrudes out of the roof. There are 12 window openings in the top designed to let hot air out. Eventually, we will actually have windows that will tilt out but for the time being we only have window openings. The hot air rises and goes out through the tower. This pulls cooler air in from the porches and shaded areas around the house.
This “home made” air conditioning system has worked very well so far. It is much cooler in the house than it would normally be during the summer. If the temperature is 95 degrees outside, it’s probably 80 degrees inside. Probably not cold enough for some of you “air conditioning junkies”, but nothing a good ceiling fan can’t handle. We can feel a good breeze through the house on a windy day. My father-in-law jokes that he’s had three hats blown off while walking through our kitchen. An added benefit is that we’re constantly changing the air in our house and I’m sure the air quality is much better.
In the days before air conditioning, a tower or clerestory was a common way to let light in and hot air out of buildings. I like to call it “old fashioned air conditioning”. I’m even thinking of looking further back in history for cooling answers. I have a vision of me laying by the pool while Sherrie fans me with a palm leaf. I’ll let you know how that goes.