Our old air conditioner is expensive to run—are there ways to use ventilation to stay comfortable without running it as much?—Michael A.
Proper ventilation, both from outdoors and within your house, can make you feel cooler and reduce your air conditioning use. The room air temperature actually is not as important as the cooling sensation on your skin. Moving air feels cooler than still air at the same temperature, so you can set the air conditioner thermostat a few degrees higher.
One type of ventilation moves indoor air throughout your house with the windows closed. A ceiling paddle fan works well for this; run it on medium or high speed with the air blowing down to create a direct breeze on your skin. During the winter, reverse the blade rotation and run it on low speed to circulate the warm air around the room.
Make sure to choose the proper-size ceiling fan or you will waste electricity and gain little comfort. For example, for a lower-cost, four- or five-blade fan, get a 36-inch model for rooms up to 75 square feet.
Although running any electric fan can make you feel cooler, it does not cool the room, because all of the electricity used endsup as heat. Select a multi- or variable-speed fan with a wide range of speeds. A horizontal, reversible dual-window fan provides an even wider range of ventilation options.
Setting your central air conditioner blower to “on” can help to balance out room temperatures, but it will not create much of a cooling breeze.
The other type of ventilation is natural outdoor ventilation, which is effective and free. Here’s a tip: When you open double-hung windows or a storm/screen door, open both the top and bottom sashes a little. This creates a natural vertical air flow, even on a still day, which will mix with the indoor air.
Sit near a window on the windward side of the home; if you’re on the first floor, open the window just a little; if on the other side or on the second floor, open it much wider. This creates a higher velocity of incoming air for a stronger breeze.
JAMES DULLEY is a nationally syndicated columnist who writes on energy efficiency and do-it-yourself energy topics.