Posts Tagged ‘DC’

Keeping cool during the East Coast heat wave

July 6, 2010

Boston, New York, DC are sweltering.  Hot and humid, most of the East Coast is in the middle of a heat wave—and it’s supposed to get worse as the week progresses.  Add the high humidity, and a lot of people are going to be uncomfortable.  While there are great long-term solutions, here are some things you can do now to help stay cool.

Keep the heat out of your house.

  • Pull shades/draw curtains to block the sun during the day.  Much of the summer temperature gain in a home comes through the windows in the form of sunlight.
  • During the day, use window or exhaust fans when it is cooler outside than inside.  Don’t use them when it’s hotter outside—that just helps pull more warm air into the house.  Likewise, keep windows closed if it’s cooler inside than it is outside.
  • Avoid cooking, baking, boiling water.
  • Use exhaust fans when showering and cooking to immediately remove excess heat and humidity.
  • Keep lights and electronics off when you’re not using them—they generate heat.  In particular, try to avoid halogen or incandescent lights which are like mini heaters throughout your home.

Cool off your home at night.

  • If/when it cools off at night, open the windows, and exhaust as much air as possible, drawing in cooler in.

Keep yourself cool.

  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • Use a fan to circulate air in the room you’re in.  (Unless you’re pulling in cooler outside air, turn the fan off when you leave the room—it cools you, not the room, and the fan motor actually generates heat.
  • Eat small meals—and cold ones.
  • Jump in the pool, hit the beach, cool yourself off.
  • When you’re outside, stay in the shade, avoid the sun.
  • If you don’t have AC, and the temperature in your home stays above 80 degrees, try to at least spend part of the day someplace cooler.  At the mall, at the movie theater, in a deep cave.  (And check your neighbors to make sure they’re OK, too.)

There are plenty of longer term solutions—from sealing and insulating your attic, swapping to efficient lighting, sealing duct work, using high-efficiency AC equipment, planting trees to help shade the house.  GreenHomes can help you with most of these.  But in the meantime, stay cool, and stay safe.


More DC-area ice dams

February 12, 2010

Here’s one from Patricia Plympton taken before the mid-week storm that added more snow.  Notice the heavy buildup of ice.  The new snow and water melting behind it spell potential trouble in the coming days.

An example of roof ice on the DC area

February 9, 2010

Dale Hoffmeyer forwards this example of ice forming on roofs in suburban Virginia.  Ouch.

Fixing Ice Dams Right Now

February 9, 2010

OK, so you know the best way to address ice dams is to prevent them from forming in the first place, with proper attic insulation and air-sealing to keep the heat and warm in your house, and then attic ventilation as the backstop to remove heat that does escape into your attic.

But you live in the mid-Atlantic region, from Virginia and DC to Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and Delware up into New Jersey, you’ve been pummeled with snow, and there is more on the way.  What about the ice dam that is on your roof right now?

First, stay off the roof. Walking on an icy, snow-covered roof is dangerous. And falls even from a low roof can result in serious injury or kill you.

Chipping away at the ice with shovels, axes, hammers is also NOT a good idea. It can damage your roofing (or siding or gutters) and it too is dangerous for you.

Instead, try these temporary home remedies:

  • Use a long handled snow rake–while you stand safely on the ground and far back from where the snow will be falling—to pull off snow from around the eaves.
  • If you’ve already got an ice dam formed, with water building up behind it, fill a panty hose stocking with calcium chloride and lay it so it runs up the roof, across the ice dam. This is a last resort, and the calcium chloride may harm plants below it.  [Amazon sells a special “sock” for thick, but old nylon stockings, or even a cheap new pair from the nearest store,  should work just as well.]
  • If you’ve got water leaking in through the roof, you may be able to stop the leak by sticking a box fan in the attic and having it blast cold air on the leak, freezing the water. Of course, this is a short term fix only, and it works only if the air in the attic is sufficiently cold.

Ice dams can cause water leaks that result in thousands of dollars in damage. The best fix is good insulation and air-sealing to help avoid them in the first place. And it really works. Take action now to avoid the problems coming back in the future.


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