Active Cooling

Active cooling is cooling that needs some kind of power input. In the old days, it was beautiful slaves fanning the master with Ostrich and Peacock feather fans. There’s not many slaves around nowadays, nor Ostrich feathers, so we’ll have to make do with electricity.

All of the passive techniques covered on the passive cooling page can increase your comfort level and reduce the amount of power that you use but there are still many times when you’ll need to use a powered appliance.

Crazy temperatures in Summer
Temperatures are getting a little craaaaazy!

Ceiling and pedestal fans

These are the most common fans and cool you by blowing air around the room and across your body. As it evaporates your sweat, it cools your skin. Fans also work to circulate air through the warm and cool patches in the room, evening out temperature differences.

Ceiling fans are probably our best investment.
Ceiling fans are worth their weight in gold

Pedestal fans work well and are very cheap, you will often see them on the side of the road in hard rubbish piles or as give aways. We have one that has a built in mister that drops the temperature a bit more than a plain fan. Pedestal fans are handy to get a cool breeze directed to yourself but by far the best are ceiling fans. They can be expensive to buy and have installed (they need a certificate of compliance from a licensed electrician) but do an amazing job.

Ceiling fans move a larger quantity of air at a slower speed than pedestal fans, that means more steady cooling and cooling of a larger area. There are usually two settings, one for Summer and one for Winter. Because they’re quite large fixtures, and take up a lot of ceiling real estate, they usually have ceiling lights built in to them.

interestingly, I’ve noticed when watching movies, ceiling fans in the US have 5 blades, while those in the real world have 4. Maybe its just the movies I watch?

Ceiling fans Installing them in all of the most commonly used rooms in the house – lounge, kitchen and bedrooms raised the temperature at which the rooms became uncomfortable by up to 5 degrees. This meant 6 degrees that we don’t need the air conditioner on for, saving us heaps of energy and money.

Exhaust fans. 

The fans in your kitchen and bathroom can be used to cool your home. Used when the outside temperature is below that inside the house, they can literally suck the heat out of your home and the cool right in. The job they do will depend on their position but by creating negative pressure inside the house, they cause the cooler, outside air to flow in.

If you can, add draught stoppers to your exhaust fans. These are two piece plastic chimneys with a flap. They go up in the roof cavity,over your exhaust fan, . When the fan is on, the flap lifts to allow the vented air to escape. When the fan stops, the flap drops and seals off the device and stops hot air and dust from coming in. Because of the way they’re manufactured, you don’t need to go up into the roof space to install them. All you do is pop out your exhaust fan, slide the two pieces up through the hole in the ceiling and clip them together. Then you reinstall the exhaust fan and away you go. No more dust or hot air.

Old exhaust fans can us a lot of power for the short time the’re in use. Those that I removed from here averaged 80W each! I replaced them with low energy fans from Arlec that draw, around 4W each. Their flow rate is lower than the old style fans but their power consumption means that you can have them on for longer and still use less power.

If you’re replacing exhaust fans with low energy models and adding draught stoppers, make sure the draught stopper is light enough to be opened by the pressure from the fan. Some models are a bit too stiff at the opening and won’t open for the low energy fans.

In many cases, you won’t need an electrician to upgrade to low energy exhaust fans. Many houses have a plug in the roof cavity where you can unplug the old fan and plug the new one in.

Low energy exhaust fans can make a racket when they’re starting up. This is something to do with the way the motor engages when starting up. It happens in our Arlec fans. Apparently, it doesn’t happen in the HPM brand fans which use a different motor mechanism. We’ll be installing another exhaust fan in the hallway to dump the hot air near the ceiling and will try the HPM one.

Air conditioning

There are two types of air conditioners – evaporative and refrigerated.

Refrigerated air conditioners (or heat pumps as they’re called in some parts of the world) work like your refrigerator. A coolant fluid is circulated through the unit. This picks up heat from your room and uses that energy to expand. It is then pumped to a cooler area (outside) where it is compressed (by a compressor in the unit) and gives off the heat where it is blown away by a fan.

Smaller units only work in one room where they work well but usually don’t extend to the rest of the house unless you have a fan blowing the cold air out of the room and into another. Bigger and more expensive units are ducted throughout the house.Newer models are extremely energy efficient. We have one that came with the house so it’s not that great. We use it for am emergency unit in the lounge for when one of us has overheated in outside.

Evaporative air conditioners are those roof mounted boxes that you see on many houses. They pump water (which is usually cooler than the air) over pads of a straw like material. They have a fan which draws air over and through these pads where the water cools it, The fan then blows it into the house.

These are usually ducted throughout the house. The moist air can cause the humidity to rise quite a bit and they’re not terribly efficient when the temperature is very high and/or the water in your pipes has become hot from the weather. They also use water which is run off through a valve and if you’re not careful, can run away down your drains. It’s not terribly difficult to catch this water or redirect it to a tank or directly onto the garden. Sometimes it can be high in dissolved salts so we direct this water to different parts of the garden at different times.

There are many portable units available that work on this evaporative principle. They come in many shape, size and complexity and usually benefit from having ice water or just ice added to their water reservoir. I’ve found a few in people’s hard rubbish or give away piles and cleaned them up and given them to folks who need them.

These portable units do have a drawback though. They can make the humidity of the room uncomfortably high very quickly. I remember the one we had when I was growing up. It was great for an hour or so then everything got tropically sticky.

Evaporative air conditioners work best if you have a window or two slightly open to allow the air to flow out. This makes it more effective on your body as the air is moving more and it helps reduce the humidity.

We use our evaporative roof unit at night or early in the morning when the outside temperature is lower than that of the inside. It has a ‘vent’ function that doesn’t cool the air with water, it just pumps outside air into the house. We open all the doors and windows for an hour or two and use the cooler, vented air to push the warm air from the house. This technique saves power and water because there is no water pump running in the unit.

These handheld thermometer guns are an amazingly useful tool for improving energy efficiency.
These handheld thermometer guns are an amazingly useful tool for improving energy efficiency.
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