As mentioned in my daybook entry, we were having a whole house fan installed today. Since we have lived in this home (4 years now), we have had very high electricity bills during the summer - like $800! We have always assumed it was due to our AC unit being old & inefficient. We've lived with it because we haven't been able to save the $$ for a new AC. Where we live, temps get over 100 degrees a fair amount of the time during summer months. I know that other frugal folks live without their AC, but that just isn't for me. Our house faces east/west (will never do that again!) and we do not have any trees big enough to shade the house - nor room to plant them, so our house is in full sun all day long. I didn't think about these things when we purchased the house, I did not have the frugal mindset then. Anyway, our house gets and stays very warm (a good thing during the winter months, not good during summer).
We've been thinking of ways we can reduce our AC use, without being miserable. One such way is by installing a whole house fan. Basically, this fan is installed in your ceiling and when on, pulls the hot air out of your house and forces it out through the attic vents. Ideally, the windows are open and fresh air is drawn inside your home. Used just prior to turning your AC on will save the AC unit some work. On more moderate days, it may be the only intervention needed to cool your home. So....we decided to ask a friend and handyman to install one for us. We were able to pick up a 24 inch one (must size appropriately) for a discounted price of $190.
He came over today to install it. What did he find when he went up into the attic???? He found old duct work and new duct work that was not sealed! Apparently, they had used duct tape on the sheet metal seams and the duct tape was all pulling away - he could stick his hand right through the seams! Our AC unit has been cooling the attic really well!!! It seems the original house had a "swamp cooler" that was, at some point, replaced with a central air unit. They left the old duct work in place (dust magnet) and put new ducting around it (poorly, i might add). So, he gave us a new quote to fix all the ducting in that area (using the proper sealing tape), put new registers in each of the bedrooms (no wonder they are always hot!) and remove the old ducting. The estimate is $500, which we can pay over 2 months. Then we'll proceed with the whole house fan.
Pigeon Man and I were talking this afternoon about how hard it is to spend money on your home for something that isn't visible. We don't have much extra $$, and it's more gratifying to spend it on something that pleases the eyes....however, we feel responsible in making the right choice that will improve our home's efficiency, make our kid's bedrooms more comfortable, save us money, and be "greener."