Monday, August 8, 2016

The hot house

Ever since we bought our Saltspring Island house, a favourite exercise has been to think up ways of  keeping it cool in the hottest days of summer.

Plunk an uninsulated, flat-roofed, many-windowed house on a bare hillside in the hottest part of a Mediterranean-climate island, and imagine what it's like inside when summer temperatures soar!

In the first flush of post-purchase enthusiasm 16 years ago, we toyed with some serious solutions -- proper insulation, a new roof, new double or triple-paned windows, a second storey, a complete rebuild.

But all these projects cost a bomb, and we're not here that much. So for a decade, conjuring up imaginative ways to cool the house down in the summer has been a favourite parlour game -- visitors are welcome to join in! Exterior tarps over the windows? A roof over the huge deck that bakes uselessly in the sun all day? Big umbrellas? Skylights to let the heat out? A second deck out back, where there is already some shade? An air conditioner? A shelter over part of the deck?

We've tried or seriously considered most of the above, but discarded them because they were too expensive, blocked the view or would have changed the feel of the house too much. But this year, we had a go at the last two.

Enter the little mobile air conditioner that would cool at least one room when the heat got unbearable. The salesman thought so much of it that he gave John $50 off the price "because they usually only last a season anyway." So far, we've used it for about six hours. The first time, it made the lights in the house flicker. The second time, it made the lights go out altogether and blew a fuse. The third time, when John put it on a circuit that had nothing else on it, it still made the lights flicker. Hmm... maybe it's not so hot after all.

The little air conditioner that blew our lights out.
The second experiment was to erect a shelter over the end of the deck to give a little spot of shade without blocking the interior view. Working in blasting heat, John put up two support beams and draped an experimental tarp over them. The result: A tiny moving square of shade, barely enough for one person to sit in, in the midst of blistering heat.

Both of this summer's experiments have now been jettisoned. August is proceeding, temperatures are dropping, the house is quite comfortable. Next year we will probably have some more ideas.

John works on one of this summer's bright ideas -- a shelter over the end of the deck. Notice the protective headgear.

Lots of work for not much shade -- and it's blazing hot anyway.

John dismantling the deck shelter. 

All back to normal. At the end of his efforts, John turns to the only tried and true cooling-off strategy we have found-- walking down the hill and plunging into the ocean.

Here's the reason we have so much trouble actually doing anything: We like the unimpeded view out of the window. A deck covering would ruin that. 

1 comment:

  1. We spent many a summer on the "real" Mediterranean and while things are now changing and central AC is more prevalent, most places where we were staying didn't have AC because there was the "sea breeze"....right...still sweltering. Something that saved our bacon was a battery operated fan. Have you tried a large number of fans?