Author Topic: (not)Cooling My House in NC  (Read 4392 times)

MrWednesday

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(not)Cooling My House in NC
« on: May 16, 2014, 09:55:10 AM »
I'd like to run my ac as little as possible this summer and wonder about humidity/mold/insect issues that might occur as a result. It gets pretty humid in NC and last summer my wife complained about "musty smells' and our door jamb expanding and sticking to our door as a result of high temps/humidity. Is there a standard temperature/humidity that a modern (1997) house has to be maintained at to avoid serious issues? (serious issues like the one's mentioned here http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/stories/how-humidity-can-damage-your-home) Can anyone provide me with a source(s) for making a reasonable decision regarding ac use and minimizing humidity risks?  Thanks!

MrsPete

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2014, 10:26:15 AM »
I'd like to run my ac as little as possible this summer and wonder about humidity/mold/insect issues that might occur as a result. It gets pretty humid in NC and last summer my wife complained about "musty smells' and our door jamb expanding and sticking to our door as a result of high temps/humidity. Is there a standard temperature/humidity that a modern (1997) house has to be maintained at to avoid serious issues? (serious issues like the one's mentioned here http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/stories/how-humidity-can-damage-your-home) Can anyone provide me with a source(s) for making a reasonable decision regarding ac use and minimizing humidity risks?  Thanks!
I grew up in a house without air conditioning, and while it isn't strictly a NEED, I'd give up quite a few things before I'd give this up.  Thoughts on reducing use:

- Don't cut it off altogether.  This'll just make the air conditioner work harder to bring the temperature back down.  Instead, move it up/down as needed.
- Add fans, though they do use electricity, so that's not a completely free option.  Never run a fan in an empty room -- they don't bring down the temperature; rather, they just move the air over you.  No people in the room?  No one to feel the air moving.
- Cook in the microwave or the crock pot, which don't produce as much heat as the oven -- and, thus, won't introduce as much heat into your house.
- Use thick drapes to cover windows on the sunny side of the house. 
- Plant trees to shade your house (not that that'll help you much this year). 
- Get up early and do all your physical work so that you can relax in the shade during the heat of the day.
- Keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water.

Argyle

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2014, 10:46:08 AM »
I have an old house and I have no air conditioning, and in fact do not miss it at all.  I go along with general conversation about air conditioning, but secretly I think people who have it are complainypants wusses. :)

I have never noticed any mold problems, and I live in an area that gets very hot and muggy during the summer.

Admittedly, old houses (mine is nearly 100 years old) are built to handle hot weather, and modern houses aren't always designed with the cross-drafts etc.  But here's how to maximize the coolness:

Keep the windows shut during the day, and the lighting low -- curtains drawn if you aren't using the room or need the light.  In the evening, when it's cooler, you open the curtains and the windows (and solid exterior doors, if you have screen doors) wide open.  Then the cool air comes in. 

Ceiling fans are helpful if you have them.  Do some internet research to make sure they're revolving the right way (it's opposite for summer and winter, depending on whether you want the warm air to go up or down).

When you have windows open, cross-drafts are what you want, from one side of the house to the other, or within the same room. 

Our doors do stick in the summer.  We just don't close the dining room door all the way during the summer.  In the fall it will return to its former size without a problem.  If the swelling is really inconvenient, you can shave a bit off the door.  I guess I hadn't even realized that this is no longer normal.

If it's really hot in the afternoon, this is what siestas are for!  Also porches and hammocks!

If it's really hot, you can put your T-shirt in the freezer for a bit before you put it on.  Nice!  At night, put your pillow in the freezer for a bit before you go to bed.  Also nice!  And lemonade with ice cubes is your friend generally.  And iced tea.

I have never lived in an air-conditioned house.  When I visit them I find they're clammy and sterile, with all that chilly unmoving air.  It might as well not be summer.  Love a breeze in a house!  The studies do find that air conditioning trains people to be less adaptible to changes in temperature.  Come on out and join the non-wussypants un-air-conditioned brigade.

plantingourpennies

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2014, 11:38:22 AM »
Down in FL, many part time residents (usually gone during summer months) have separate thermostats and humidistats installed with their central air.  Then in the summer, they tend to set the controls so the thermostat is rarely (if ever) activated in the on position, but with the humidistat set to keep the internal humidity at 65% or less to prevent mold/mildew/swelling.  I think my in-laws have the "away" setting on their unit set at a default of 87 degrees and 65% humidity.  At these settings, the temperature controls are almost guaranteed not to be activated unless someone went in and started using the oven on a hot summer day. 

Our personal AC use tends to be using the AC from April - October at night only - usually gets turned on as we head toward bed, and is set to turn off by itself around 4am.  During the day it's lots of fans, and strategic opening/closing of doors and windows.  This clears out the humidity from the house at least once per day during the rainy season and keeps us nice and comfortable for a good night of sleep.  We've never had a problem with mold or excess humidity/swelling and hope never to have one. 

phred

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2014, 11:56:38 AM »
cook outside; way back when, houses use to have summer kitchens which were outside cook shacks

don't let the water run while waiting for it to run cool - keep a water pitcher in the frig
don't let the water keep running while washing dishes
learn the two minute "military" shower

MrWednesday

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2014, 12:49:51 PM »
Down in FL, many part time residents (usually gone during summer months) have separate thermostats and humidistats installed with their central air.  Then in the summer, they tend to set the controls so the thermostat is rarely (if ever) activated in the on position, but with the humidistat set to keep the internal humidity at 65% or less to prevent mold/mildew/swelling.  I think my in-laws have the "away" setting on their unit set at a default of 87 degrees and 65% humidity.  At these settings, the temperature controls are almost guaranteed not to be activated unless someone went in and started using the oven on a hot summer day. 

Our personal AC use tends to be using the AC from April - October at night only - usually gets turned on as we head toward bed, and is set to turn off by itself around 4am.  During the day it's lots of fans, and strategic opening/closing of doors and windows.  This clears out the humidity from the house at least once per day during the rainy season and keeps us nice and comfortable for a good night of sleep.  We've never had a problem with mold or excess humidity/swelling and hope never to have one.
I don't have any whole house dehumidifier set up, is there a humidistat that activates central air rather than a dehumidifier? I searched a bit on Home Depot but did not come up with anything. A device that kicked my ac on when it gets too humid would be perfect, although I imagine it might get annoying to have to disable it so it would not kick on when I have the windows open and fans on. Last summer we kept ac off mostly, using fans and what not, but  humidity was quite high. Maybe I'll just have to set it to kick on a few hours a night similar to what you do.

Rural

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2014, 02:36:47 PM »
We keep our place at 70% humidity or lower, which is a challenge in the summertime. Being able have cross breezes helps tremendously, but sometimes you do have to run a dehumidifier or an air conditioner. Both involve a compressor, so as long as the AC does a good job keeping down the humiditiy, I don't see any reason to run only a dehumidifier if you also happen to be hot. In places like Florida, you probably need both so that you can dehumidify in the wintertime.


We designed our place, which is new,  for cross breezes, and I'm starting to see the problem getting better. However, ours is an underground house, and the concrete is still curing. We'll be dehumidifying for several summers yet, I should think. I'm just glad that the summer is already looking better than last summer.


For what it's worth, over 70% humidity is where I start observing mold. I wouldn't worry too much about the door sticking, but I would worry about the musty smell. If she's noticing it, the trouble's already getting pretty bad, and you need to dehumidify.

plantingourpennies

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2014, 08:17:38 PM »
Down in FL, many part time residents (usually gone during summer months) have separate thermostats and humidistats installed with their central air.  Then in the summer, they tend to set the controls so the thermostat is rarely (if ever) activated in the on position, but with the humidistat set to keep the internal humidity at 65% or less to prevent mold/mildew/swelling.  I think my in-laws have the "away" setting on their unit set at a default of 87 degrees and 65% humidity.  At these settings, the temperature controls are almost guaranteed not to be activated unless someone went in and started using the oven on a hot summer day. 

Our personal AC use tends to be using the AC from April - October at night only - usually gets turned on as we head toward bed, and is set to turn off by itself around 4am.  During the day it's lots of fans, and strategic opening/closing of doors and windows.  This clears out the humidity from the house at least once per day during the rainy season and keeps us nice and comfortable for a good night of sleep.  We've never had a problem with mold or excess humidity/swelling and hope never to have one.
I don't have any whole house dehumidifier set up, is there a humidistat that activates central air rather than a dehumidifier? I searched a bit on Home Depot but did not come up with anything. A device that kicked my ac on when it gets too humid would be perfect, although I imagine it might get annoying to have to disable it so it would not kick on when I have the windows open and fans on. Last summer we kept ac off mostly, using fans and what not, but  humidity was quite high. Maybe I'll just have to set it to kick on a few hours a night similar to what you do.

The separate humidistat was an option when we got our new AC unit, and we didn't go for it then.  Perhaps we should have but it didn't seem necessary since we are full time.   Maybe you can contact a local AC install company and they'll be able to advise on what you might need to add this to an existing system. 

. In places like Florida, you probably need both so that you can dehumidify in the wintertime.

You'd be surprised... Winter is our dry season and it's not generally humid... Though I guess it's all relative.

Rural

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2014, 09:37:07 AM »


I don't have any whole house dehumidifier set up, is there a humidistat that activates central air rather than a dehumidifier? I searched a bit on Home Depot but did not come up with anything. A device that kicked my ac on when it gets too humid would be perfect, although I imagine it might get annoying to have to disable it so it would not kick on when I have the windows open and fans on. Last summer we kept ac off mostly, using fans and what not, but  humidity was quite high. Maybe I'll just have to set it to kick on a few hours a night similar to 

. In places like Florida, you probably need both so that you can dehumidify in the wintertime.

You'd be surprised... Winter is our dry season and it's not generally humid... Though I guess it's all relative.


Well, I knew that was true here, but I was just guessing humidity might be higher in winter closer to the coast. We dropped down to 45 percent indoor humidity this winter, so I know what you mean.


Right now, though, we're running a portable dehumidifier in the man cave because it's started smelling musty again, and it's cool and damp outside. Blackberry winter is not the same thing, humidity-wise. :-)[/quote]

Edit to apologies for the messed up quotes. I've worked on them three times now and am ready to concede defeat.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2014, 10:19:05 AM by Rural »

SDREMNGR

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2014, 10:11:34 AM »
1. Buy a dehumidifier set it on auto with drain into a sink or tub so you don't have to manually empty the water.

2. Paint your roof. :)  I'm a fan of it.  Although with your humid climate, it may be a problem for you.  So you will have to look into adequate ventilation for attic.

3. Better insulate your home.  Invest in reflective window films and screens.  Check attic for adequate insulation.  Look into reflective house paints to reduce heat absorption.

MrsPete

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2014, 10:25:24 PM »
I have an old house and I have no air conditioning, and in fact do not miss it at all.  I go along with general conversation about air conditioning, but secretly I think people who have it are complainypants wusses. :)

I have never noticed any mold problems, and I live in an area that gets very hot and muggy during the summer.

Admittedly, old houses (mine is nearly 100 years old) are built to handle hot weather, and modern houses aren't always designed with the cross-drafts etc.  But here's how to maximize the coolness:
Yes, I grew up in an old house, and it was better designed for life without air conditioning.  You mentioned cross-breezes, but also old houses tend to have high ceilings, deep porches that shade the windows, etc.  And everyone had two sets of curtains: the thick winter drapes that kept out drafts, and the thin white curtains for summer that kept out sun while allowing in some breeze.  Much of that changed in the 60s-70s when energy efficiency became an issue and smaller, higher windows came into vogue. 

Regardless, the OP probably has little control over those things in the house where he lives. 

Rezdent

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Re: (not)Cooling My House in NC
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2014, 05:23:41 PM »
We live without AC in Central Texas.  Humidity starts kicking us around when there's no air flow so we try to keep air moving.  Sometimes we'll need to leave closets open.
We also installed a whole house fan.

Not sure where I first heard about thermal house "sailing" but we practice it now. I can't find the links to it anymore so here's a very rough sketch of how it works for us.
Summer nights are cooler.  Open windows and turn on fans to pull the cool air in.  Come morning block the sun from entering windows and heating the house.  Once the outside temps exceed the inside temps turn off the fan.  Use fast cooking or cold dishes like salads.  Grill outside where possible.  Plan days so that your downtime is during the hottest parts.