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gnat (29)

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Journal of gnat (29)

Monday June 10, 2002
01:22 AM


[ #5529 ]
Every house I've lived in, I've learned something new to watch out for when renting (or, recently, buying) the next one. For example, the otherwise nice house up Aro Street that I lived in for my third year at University turned out to be in shadow for about 23 hours a day, and consequently grew mould in the bathroom like nothing I've ever seen since.

So I have a tip to pass on to you folks. It's a strange one, though, involving basements. Finished basements, in particular. Because a basement is underground, it's surprisingly important that the basement be heated and cooled separately from the rest of the house if people are to live there.

The situation we have right now is that my mother-in-law turns into an icicle (not necessarily a bad thing, I'll grant you) when the air conditioning is on in our house. Upstairs in my office, I'm sweltering. Down in the basement she's freezing. The main floor is comfortable. Now we can remove a lot of the heat from the office via the window with a fan, but the basement problem can't be fixed. The fan vents aren't designed to be airtight seals, they push a little less of a cold draught into the already-cold basement. The fan circulating air in the house only slightly ameliorates the problem.

So ... separate heating and cooling. Now you know.


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  • The fan vents aren't designed to be airtight seals, they push a little less of a cold draught into the already-cold basement.

    For every home improvement problem there are two equally suitable solutions. Some homeowners tend focus on the one that involves hundreds of dollars, a new/replaced appliance or a team of contractors. The contractors see the one that involves about $2.00 (or less) in materials, and about 15 minutes of labor.

    Have you thought about sealing off the vents in the basement with som

  • Assuming this is a standard centralized air system(single-point forced air), go to where the air ducts all meet at the heat exchange unit (where the blower will be). Each of the 6" or 8" galvanized ducts may have a valve.

    From the outside it'll look like a bolt just screwed onto the duct with a metal lever on it. (On the inside, it's a butterfly valve). If installed correctly, the lever pointing the same direction as the duct is "open" and purpendicular is "closed".

    In the summertime, close the vents
  • You don't need to seal the basement, you need to vent the top floor to pull the cooler air up.

    If the roof sits in sunlight for any decent stretch of the day, get a powered attic vent on a thermostat. A fan that blows the hot air out of the attic when it gets to, say, 105, will make an ASTOUNDING improvement in the temperature of the third floor in the summer. A friend of mine just had to replace his attic vent fan. He knew it had gone bad when his otherwise nice and cool second floor suddenly became unfom

    • I saw something like this on a This Old House many, many moons ago. They were renovating a colonial house in Georgia that had some a form of air conditioning in the 19th Century[1]. How'd they do it? By installing a ring of propane burners around an open vent in the center of the roof (at the top of the central spiral staircase, IIRC). When it gets hot, just fire up the burners and watch the air rise and circulate. Same basic principle. :-)

      [1] You can date the technique to the introduction to gas lin