Everyone loves the romantic notion of an old stone house being cool in summer and warm in winter, but unfortunately, this is not the case. Though stone houses have a high thermal mass, they can lose heat during winter and trap heat during the summer without insulation.
To keep your stone house cool, you need to keep the high external temperatures from invading your interior space. Some of the best ways to achieve this are blocking solar gain, air sealing, and insulating your home. You can also adapt your living style to use less heat emitting appliances.
There are even more strategies to stop you from sweltering in your stone house in summer, and we will discuss nine of the best of these in this article in greater detail.
Block Out that Solar Gain
Solar gain is the process whereby high-performance windows gain heat through primary sun absorption, and the energy absorbed by the glazing is transferred inside by radiation (secondary transmittance.)
The first alternative would be to reduce solar gain from your south-facing windows by blocking the sun’s rays. A long-term solution would be planting trees or a climbing vine on a trellis as these can help prevent the sunlight from entering your window. Alternatively, a short-term solution would be to place large potted plants in front of your windows to create shade.
Another solution is to use awnings outside or blinds inside to deter the effects of solar gain. Blinds should be kept closed during the day in summer and be lined with a neutral colored and reflective material to reflect the sun’s rays.
Try Reflective Paints and Solar Control Filters
There is special cool roof paint available that reflects solar radiation as well as infrared light. You could reduce your home’s surface temperature by 50 ℉ (10 ℃), which will aid your house substantially to keep cool in extreme heat
Another method to beat the heat is to apply specialized sun control filters to your windows that allow light in and reflect heat, causing radiation. Something like sunglasses for your home, the outside will have a mirror sheen, but the view from inside remains clear.
Turn on Your Ceiling Fan
A ceiling fan is a lower cost option to AC, and it works through the process of evaporation of moisture from a person’s skin. A ceiling fan will allow you to raise your AC for about 4 ℉ while causing you no real discomfort. Larger ceiling fans move more air, and a 44-inch diameter fan is suitable for up to 225 square feet.
Be sure to stand under your fan and make sure that it is blowing air downward. Most fans have a clockwise and counterclockwise option, and you want the one that moves the cold air down in a column.
As a rule of thumb, fans do release mechanical heat while they cool you down, so switch your fan off when you leave the room.
Unplug All the Appliances That Are on Standby
Appliances such as washing machines and ovens can crank up the temperature. Keep the baking for nighttime and likewise with chores that require large machinery. Summer is a perfect time for an outdoor barbeque, so take advantage of the weather, and your home will be cooler too!
Fridges and freezers also emit a lot of heat, so make sure they are in a well-ventilated area outside your frequented living area. Halogen and incandescent lights emit heat, so it’s best to replace them with the compact fluorescent versions (CFL) and turn them off when not in use.
Save that hairdryer for winter when you will need it and unplug all appliances that are on standby mode because they still emit heat even when not operational.
Insulate and Air Seal your Home
Most people think that air sealing and insulating are all about keeping out the cold. On the contrary, these factors help considerably in keeping a house naturally cool in Summer. Temperature indoors and outdoors will always try and reach equilibrium, and the upper stories or the higher part of your home is where cold air may escape.
Here are the areas that often hide air leaks:
- Wiring and plumbing in walls and ceilings
- Attic hatches and drop-down stairs
- Recessed lights and fans
- Holes or cracks in drywall and plaster
- The rim joist in crawl spaces and basements
- Fireplace flues
You may opt to repair the leaks yourself or hire a professional, and you will end up saving money on electricity costs in the long term. Here is a YouTube video tutorial that can help you find and fix your air leaks; watch the video below:
Open Up to the Night Air
Take advantage of natural convection currents and open up your windows to the night air. The warmer house will draw in from the colder air outside, lowering the internal temperatures. You can even enhance this process by placing fans strategically to follow the breeze direction and make a DIY wind tunnel.
Insulate Your Attic
An uninsulated attic can be a constant barrier to your attempts to stay cool. The environmental heat will move through your attic and raise your home’s temperature, no matter how many cooling measures you adopt. Without an insulating barrier, the stifling summer heat will seep down into your house and raise the temperature as well as your AC costs.
If you are unsure how much insulation you need in your area, you can visit the US Department of Energy site for a handy zone guide.
Maintain Your AC and Program Your Thermostat
You can save money by programming your thermostat to run warmer during your working hours and out of the house. Ensure that there are no leaks in the AC ducting as you may lose a substantial amount of cooling through gaps in the duct joints. If you can’t afford an expert, you can try and isolate leaks by the cold escaping air while the unit is on.
Tune and clean your AC regularly because a poorly maintained AC consumes a much more significant amount of energy and lowers its longevity. You should aim to have it serviced every 2 to 3 years to maintain peak performance.
If all else fails, and you are waiting for your trees to grow or the winter to save you, you can always make the house feel cooler by cooling yourself down. Some of the things you can try are listed below:
- Make a DIY AC unit by aiming a low standing fan at a bucket of ice so that the air travels over it.
- Change into loose-fitting cotton clothing and try to keep exertions for the night hours.
- Try sleeping downstairs, or if you live in a single-story, put your mattress on the floor. We all know hot air rises, so why not try to get under it?
- Turn on your bathroom extractor fan to get the air circulating.
- Place cold towels on your pulse points.
- Change to cotton sheets and avoid synthetic fibers and fleece materials.
There are many ways to cool down a stone house, and not all of these tips necessitate a costly and environmentally damaging AC. By making sure that you cover or screen high sunlight areas and windows and insulate your home, you will notice a marked improvement.
Try and think ahead to the next summer and plant yourself some ivy and fast-growing trees for a green solution.