Friday, June 17, 2011

Adventures on the roof.

Our house is hot.

Not right now. Right now it's about 55 degrees outside and all the windows are open and fans are blowing cool air in and hot air out.

Even all morning, the house stays pretty cool all by itself.

Then, at 2:00 pm, the sun hits the front of the house. We have six big windows on the front of our house. Six. Big ones. And from about 3:00 until the sun goes down, the sunlight blasts the front of the house, heating up all those old, 1970s original single-pane, aluminum windows until the metal will burn your fingers. Between 2:00 and 4:00 pm, the temperature in the house goes up 10-15 degrees, from tolerable to who invited the devil in?

Honestly, the  house feels like an oven all afternoon.

It starts cooling the instant the sun goes down, but it takes all night for it to get really cool in here again--and then we start over.

We've tried a lot of things.

We tried 70% efficient window film. It did make the sunspot on the floor less hot. It also made the window itself even MORE hot, and that radiated into the house. Plus it peeled off.

We tried nailing blankets over the windows. That helped a little.

We tried a heat-proof curtain my aunt bought at a garage sale when she was living here. That worked well, but there's only one and it's 3'x6'--only big enough for one of the bedroom windows. Plus it does let the heat into the house. It just keeps it in the window sill, mostly, but some does leak out into the room around the edges.

We tried a whole-house swamp cooler that's on the roof. Whoever installed it was an idiot--they put in one designed to cool 500 square feet. On a 2200 square foot house. Brilliant. And it wasn't wired properly and started shorting. Plus it was hard to maintain--I even ended up stuck on the roof once when I had a ladder mishap. Plus it was a dumb idea to put a swamp cooler on a flat black roof that has little shade most of the day--so it heats up to about 200 degrees up there in the summer--even the best swamp cooler can't cool 200 degree air to cold enough to cool a house. Swamp cooler fail.

We tried window A/C, but the only windows that can support them are in the front of the house (all the back window open horizontally instead of vertically), and the heat there is so powerful the coolers can hardly compete.

We tried single-room swamp cooler, combined with fans everywhere. It sort of works, but it's designed to cool about 300 square feet. Sigh.

We tried putting drapes in the front windows. That helped a little. But not enough.

We tried elastomeric roof coatings. That helped a little but we needed 3 more coats and ran out of money, and then the roof coating mostly just wore off over the succeeding years. We probably should do this again. And we should probably use elastomeric paint when we paint the house next time (it needs it desperately. This house, as far as I can tell, has never had a new coat of paint--not since it was painted when it was built in 1972).

So, in  the sum total of everything: our house is 80 degrees inside during the day. Unless it's over 85 outside. Then it's 84-85 degrees inside.

That is WAAAYYYYYY too hot to function.

So today I wrapped up my research on what else I could try and came to the conclusion that solar screens, 90% efficient, would be the next best experiment. Lowes sells small rolls (most places you have to buy 100' of it for $300; Lowes sells pieces that are 48" x 84" for $12). So today we went out and bought some.

And then waited until the hot black roof wasn't too hot.

And then I went out there with a hammer, some nails, some scissors, and the solar screens. I climbed through the baby's bedroom window onto the flat garage roof and started working on nailing the screens across the window to the siding of the house (which is all wood) because I didn't have window screen frames and didn't want to build them. And pretty soon I looked down and found three little boys scrambling out the window, and a little girl going out her bedroom window.

Did I mention it was 2:00 am?

Yeah. 3  little boys, ages 2, 4, and 5, on a big flat roof they've been eyeing for months (or years). They didn't manage to stay sitting.  And the baby started crying. And then screaming, just inside the open window on Caleb's lap. So I had little boys running. Baby screaming. Anda asking to come out. On the roof. In the dark. At 2:00 am.

So I got more than a little nervous and more than a little irritated and chased everyone back into the house. Except somehow I ended up sitting on the roof with the baby in my lap. And my 2 year old begging to come back out.

And somehow I managed to climb back in through the window with a baby in my arms.

And Benji immediately scolded me: "Mom! You yelled at my friend Nathie!"

Tim came up and took the baby, distracted the kids, and then sent me back onto the roof to finish. I locked the bedroom door behind me this time and climbed back out. It only took 10 minutes to nail the screens on and trim them to the right size. And I even remembered to leave one loose at the bottom so I could climb back in!

Now we wait to see if it works.

Naturally, it's supposed to be overcast and rainy every afternoon for the rest of the week.....

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