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Windows and Venting Skylights for Cross Circulation

If well-planned, a home can be virtually self-lighting and self-ventilating for the majority of every day. A visit to Thomas Jefferson’s home of Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia can prove that. Jefferson, was not just one of our presidents, he was an inventor, horticulturalist, and architect; he was also the greenest before green was king.

At any rate, Jefferson designed his home with tall windows that could open on top or on bottom—or both—in order to properly circulate the air to keep it moving throughout the house and to give it an air conditioned feel. Thus, 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson was able to invent air conditioning without electricity.

Which means….we can all do that today as well in our own homes. By having many openings we can effectively force outside air through the house, cooling it during warm days and nights. Having the right windows can help with naturally air conditioning the home. It’s not so much in the brand as with the placement.

When designing or remodeling your home, the windows, skylights, and doors need to be strategically placed to give you a maximum of natural light, maximum of heat in the winter months, and a minimum during the summer as well as to create a nice flow of air when opened.

The object when planning to help cool your home naturally is to create cross-breezes. For example, two bedrooms across a hallway from each other should have windows directly opposite their entry doors. This way, when both windows are open the air can effectively flow directly in one window, through the room, across the hall, through the other bedroom and out the other side. If either window or door is shut, you’ve lost that natural cooling flow.

Another great factor in natural cooling is the venting skylight. Especially at night, these small openings can let in a tremendous amount of cool air and breeze. Of course different principles apply here, since you probably aren’t going to have a window on the floor for a cross-breeze. A ceiling fan, though, can help draw in the air from a venting skylight and push it down into the lower regions of the room.

During the daytime this system works in reverse as well. Since heat rises, it’s up there with the ceiling fan and skylight. If you reverse the circulation of the ceiling fan and open the skylight you can force the warmer air right out of your house through the roof. Open a few lower level windows during this process and you’ve also created that great flow that TJ had at Monticello of letting in lower, cooler air and circulating it up into the heights of the house and releasing it back outside as it rises and warms.

Electric air conditioning uses 1/6th of the total electricity we consume in a year; if we can just use free air effectively we can really reduce this rate of consumption. All it takes is a bit of planning, a small commitment, and daily execution.

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