the secret of the sash – revealed!

some may recall the The Great Heatwave and The Unopenable Windows. well, it’s still hovering around 100 degrees F ( 38 degrees C ) and only expected to get hotter in over the next week and as of this morning most of the sash windows in the house were still painted shut ( score one for procrastination! ).

we’ve lived in quite a few homes with lots of character. and more often than not part of that “character” comes from most of all of the windows being painted shut. i’ve never really been able to fully understand the phenomenon ( is it just a peculiarity of the u.s. or maybe just the upper midwest )? there’s no central air and there probably never will be since there were never any ducts put in the walls for heating, as the house uses radiant hot water for heat and it’s cost prohibitive to retrofit duct work. if i had to guess, i think people might close up the entire house, save a window or two, and put in a few window air conditioning units. a practice that, i must admit, DRIVES ME NUTS!

i think there’s a whole generation of so of people who have no idea that people did actually live in the upper midwest without air conditioning! for a long time! we’re not in the deep south here people. jeez. and the funniest part is that houses built prior to 1950 were built without anyone ever dreaming that air conditioning would be available for the unwashed masses, so – get this – they’re designed to get air moving through the house! and from all appearances we must be one of the last holders of the arcane knowledge that allows you to keep an entire house 10-15 degrees cooler than the outside temperature, even when it soars above 100 F. without ever resorting to the “keep one room cool with a window unit and let the rest of the house roast” method that is apparently all the rage. ask any grandmother. she’ll tell you how to do it. the abridged version is, close the windows in the morning and open them in the mid-afternoon and keep them open through the night. close the windows again in the early morning to keep the cool night air. it’s also mighty handy to vent hot air out the upper floors and simultaneously pull cooler air into the first floor by using a fan to blow out of the window in the afternoon. and if you’re a bit on the ambitious side you can install an attic or whole house fan.

can you tell it bugs me? gets right under my skin, it does. it is possible to live without air conditioning. comfortably even.

but as much as we know, we don’t know everything and it was only relatively recently that we learned the real secret of the sash. – that the upper window doesn’t just slide down for to enable easy cleaning without going outside. no, you’re actually suppose to have both open at the same time to allow warm air to vent out the upper sash and cool air to enter through the lower one ( this and a whole lot more can be learned in “working windows” )! it makes a whole lot of sense if you think about it and i can’t believe it never dawned on me before. i never usually bothered to unstick the top window before because it usually has been painted over more times than the bottom window making it hard to work open and i never thought it was worth the effort just to make cleaning the window a little easier. i had no idea i was only using half of a clever ventilation system!

and in an upcoming show, we’ll go over how to replace that window pane that you’ll inevitably break with a hammer when trying to open windows that some other idiot painted shut.

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