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I've just moved into an apartment without an air conditioner in Sunnyvale, California. The weather is not too hot, but there are going to be some pretty warm days in the summer, especially since I'm on the second floor of two. The temperatures at night should be cool enough to manage quite well - if I can get enough cool air in here!

There's no house fan, and it being an apartment, there's not much I can do about that. So what's the best way to circulate air with standalone fans?

Added fun: a neighbor smokes near my main windows, so I'd really prefer to pull air in through a screen door instead.

(I'm from Texas originally, where no one would dream of building anything without air conditioning, so I have absolutely no experience with this!)

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If you use the box fan to blow warm air out the smoking window, cool outside air should come in the non-smoking windows. –  Tester101 Jun 20 '11 at 11:58
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Ideally, you would blow warm air out of your apartment. Cool outside air will naturally take its place. If you can take advantage of prevailing winds by having open windows on opposite sides of the apartment, do so. Otherwise, use a box fan blowing out of the screen door (assuming it's not in a bedroom -- they can be pretty noisy) and smaller fans pulling air in through other windows.

You can also keep the apartment cooler during the day by closing blinds. If you have a balcony that gets sun during the day, consider getting some large plants: they'll provide some shade, and they'll need watering, which will also help to bring temperatures down.

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The other current answer suggests pulling in the cool air. What reason is there to push warm air out instead? –  Jefromi Jun 20 '11 at 13:27
@jefromi: to get air circulation through the whole apartment. –  Niall C. Jun 20 '11 at 14:15
By pushing air out, you create a "negative air pressure" space, where outside air will come in any way it can, including where you don't have fans drawing air in, but do have open windows or small leaks (EVERY house has a few air leaks). This generally cools the house faster. –  KeithS Jun 20 '11 at 22:17
Okay, but if you pull warm air in, it creates a positive pressure, and pushes air out everywhere, whether or not there are fans there. What's the difference? –  Jefromi Jun 21 '11 at 2:32
Okay, I'll answer my own question then: pushing and pulling should create roughly the same quantity of air and thermal flow, but the distribution is different. Pulling cool air in dumps all the cooling in one place, while pushing warm air out spreads the cooling across all available inlets. –  Jefromi Jun 21 '11 at 13:39
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I moved to Sunnyvale from Chicago. What I found to be the most effective:

  • Two fans. One blowing on me, one in the window pulling in the cooler night air. (As for your smoking neighbor, politely asking them will most likely change their behavior (most smokers aren't a**holes) and if not, you'll find CA has very aggressive anti-smoking laws. In many cities smoking within 50' of a residential window is illegal.)

  • Close the blinds during the day.

  • Avoid apartments on the top floor of the building (if it's not too late)

  • Not really DIY tip, but applicable to your situation: Take a cool/lukewarm shower prior to bed. It cools your skin off & the continuing evaporation makes a big difference. (I learned this trick in China, where summertime AC isn't so popular.)

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