When shopping for a home, many buyers find themselves drawn to the pleasing architecture and exquisite craftsmanship found in older homes. Unfortunately, however, many of these older homes were built long before air conditioning was routinely included in home building plans. If you have succumbed to the desire to own one of these classic beauties, but now find that you are really missing the cool comfort of air conditioning, here is a helpful guide to transform your hottie of a house into the coolest home on the block!
Transoms: Yesteryear's Ventilation Tool That Still Works Well Today
Older homes typically have two flaws that prevent them from being easily converted to central air conditioning. The lack of ducts to move conditioned air through the home and poor air flow because of the original design or later renovations and additions. While ducts can sometimes be added to these homes, the process can be expensive and require major renovations that can negatively affect the appearance of the home's interior.
Increasing the ventilation inside the home is often the best place to begin when trying to improve the comfort level. If the home still has the original windows and doors, you may notice that many of them have an extra section above the actual door or window frame. This section is called a transom which, when used correctly, helps cool the interior by allowing the hotter air to flow out of the home as it rises. This movement creates a drafting effect which helps to pull cooler outside air through the windows and into the home, so that a cooling breeze is felt, even on the hottest days.
Your vintage home may also have a transom over interior doors. These can also help with cooling the home, by using them to create a draft from cooler parts of the home to warmer areas where the cool air is needed. In addition, these interior transoms also helped the homeowner to direct the heat from one room to another in winter, thus keeping the interior temperature more even and comfortable in all seasons.
These older homes also have windows that are much larger than the ones found in most homes built today. This was necessary to increase air flow into the home for the purpose of both cooling and ventilation. Over the years, some of these windows may have become stuck due to poor painting techniques or the expansion of the wooden window frames from moisture. Restoring all windows to proper working order will greatly increase the comfort level in the home during hot summer weather.
Color & Shade: Important Components of Passive Cooling
Another way to make vintage homes feel more cool and comfortable during hot summer weather is to choose to make some simple adjustments that will help increase the passive cooling potential of the home. Shade and color are two of the most important passive cooling elements to consider.
Examine each exterior wall of your home at mid-morning, noon and mid-afternoon on a hot, sunny day. Watch to see how the sun strikes the home and then consider options for adding shade to these areas, such as awnings, trees, bushes or vines. When these areas are shaded, particularly the ones with windows, the interior of the home will benefit from being shielded from the sun. In addition, this cooler, shaded air will flow through the windows and cool the interior of the home.
Changing the color of a vintage home can also help to create a cooler interior. Instead of dark colors, which tend to absorb the heat of the sun, choose highly reflective white or light colors for exterior paint and roofing choices.
Duct-Free Air Conditioning: Quick, Easy Cooling for the Vintage Home
If your vintage home has had the transoms removed or you discover that passive cooling measures are not enough for your climate, it is time to consider installing a ductless air conditioning system. Sometimes called a mini-split air conditioner, these systems require no duct work, and can often be installed and operational in just hours. These systems come in many sizes and do an excellent job of cooling with no major renovation or changes to the home. Your local plumbing and air conditioning professional can help you determine how to configure and install a mini-split system and transform your hottie of a house, into the cool, comfortable vintage home of your dreams.