Box Fans Revisited


After a record-breaking heat wave we are finally back to cooler temperatures.  Despite my obsession with box fan cooling we had to resort to continually running our dual zone AC set at a chilly 79 degrees.  During the heat wave the night temperatures would barely dip below 80 and combined with upper 90s during the day there was no way to keep the house cool with the usual indoor/outdoor  temperature arbitrage.  Sitting inside our comfortable AC-controlled shelter we were once again grateful to Willis Carrier for his work over 100 years ago.

Now that the heat wave is out of here, we are back to open windows, falling asleep to the drone of the fans and waking up to the crisp morning air which feels just right.  Here is the forecast for the next couple of days:


This is perfect box fan weather!  Nightly temperatures are in the 60s so even if it’s sunny and 90 during the day there is enough difference here to play the temperature arbitrage games.  When it dipped into low 60s in the beginning of the week I even had to turn off the fan in our son’s bedroom as it was getting chilly in the middle of the night.  When this happens I usually relocate the fan to another room that can use some night-time cooling.

As usual, it seems that everyone else is ignoring this beautiful weather running their AC units 24×7.  This is a common topic of conversation as we’re strolling through the neighborhood at night trying to identify a potential box fan comrade given away by an open window or two.  No luck so far, just a sea of air tight boxes with their outdoor AC units humming away.  The only explanation we can come up with is that people are lazy to deal with box fans and opening/closing windows every day.  Even my wife said that she would probably just turn on the AC if I did not do all the “work”.  It’s much easier to set it and forget it she says.  At the same time she agrees that having fresh air in the house feels better than the one constantly being recirculated by the AC.  Then again, she never sees the electric bill so the set it and forget it method might not seem so great if she had to pay a full blown (pun intended) monthly cooling bill.

What if I did not have to pay the electric bill – would I run the AC 24×7?  Nope, I would still prefer the fresh air in the house whenever possible.  I also like that we consume less electricity since most of it comes from a coal-fired power plant.  Not sure if it makes any difference in a grand scheme of things but I’d like to think it does.

Then there is also the issue of the HVAC service life.  If we use our AC 70% less than other people I would expect it to last much longer than the average.  It’s like if me and my neighbor bought the same brand new car and he drove it 100,000 miles in 5 years while I drove mine 30,000 in the same time.  Whose car do you think would last longer at that usage rate?  Who’s going to spend more money on repair and maintenance?  Who’s going to replace more filters?  Our current system is over 15 years old so this is a real concern as I would like to prolong it’s life as much as possible.  I consider box fans a life support for our aging HVAC system.

By the way, it was interesting to observe the typical AC usage during our recent trip to the beach.  We rented a 4 bedroom house with two other couples and 4 kids between all of us.  Before we even had a chance to unpack, the thermostat was set by someone to 70 degrees which was raised to 73 after my wife and I said we were absolutely freezing in there.  It was a compromise because it turns out that they keep their house at 68 so they were sweating in the beach house.  We had to close the vents in our bedroom and spent a lot of the time at the beach and in the hot tub.  Not complaining but I thought it was an interesting lifestyle comparison nevertheless.

August is here and I hope it stays this nice until the end of the box fan cooling season!



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  1. Pingback: Keeping Cool with Box Fans | Insourcelife

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