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August 2008



              Welcome to the Doc Grubb newsletter for August 2008.

In many parts of the country, August is the hottest month of the year, so this issue is going to focus on how we can best cool our homes naturally. In the June 2008 newsletter, which I’m SURE you’ve read, we talked about cooling your home. The article generated so much interest that we are including more information about cooling in this issue.

Did you know that just cooling and heating your home can account for up to 45 percent of your total home energy use every year (the other costs are for cooking, laundry, heating water)? But there are numerous strategies we can use to reduce cooling costs. For example, if you use a ceiling fan with air conditioning you can raise the thermostat by as much as 4 degrees while the room feels about the same temperature to you. This is because the moving air will cool your skin. You can also open windows if the temperature outside the house drops at night.

If you learn about local weather patterns such as hot, humid areas or cold climates, you can decide on a natural cooling strategy that addresses your local conditions. In hot humid climates, for example, maximum airflow combined with shading is the dominant strategy. In hot arid climates, ventilation is welcome in the hot seasons, and night cooling of thermal mass is particularly useful due to lower nighttime temperatures. In cold climates with cool summers, there may be little need for increasing natural ventilation which already keeps you cool. Many temperate and mixed climates will require a variety of tricks as the seasons move from one extreme to another. Think about your own local weather and your experiences living there. Think and focus on the approaches that feel most relevant to your situation, and see how you might improve the existing relationship between your home and the breezes.

Before air conditioning, the summer heat transformed Washington, DC, where we live, into a virtual “ghost town” as politicians abandoned the nation's capital to escape its oppressive temperatures and humidity. Washington, D.C. was built around a swamp and the water in the soil and the Potomac River creates a high degree of humidity in the air. Phoenix and Las Vegas’ growth is inhibited by their sizzling, almost year round heat, and of course, the housing crisis. Stifling summer heat made industries think twice about locating in the Deep South. Air conditioning changed all this.

We can learn a lot from building styles that have been developed by trial and error to make the best use of nature’s cooling ventilation for a particular climate. For example, shuttered verandas, high ceilings, operable transoms, two-story porches and dogtrot houses with open breezeways down the center maximize both cross ventilation and shade to counter the humid heat in the Southern United States. Summer kitchens keep the heat of cooking out of the home, while screened sleeping porches put warm human bodies in the path of nighttime breezes in the Midwest. In desert regions, the thick earthen walls of adobe homes protect the interior from harsh sun during the day; at night the cool breezes sweep away any lingering warm air.

Another great natural way to cool your home is Cross Ventilation. Cross ventilation simply means that air flows into a room from one side and out the other. Cross ventilation cools your home by removing hot air, especially at night, if the incoming outdoor air is cool and cools your body by evaporating sweat from your skin.

Any room with openings on opposite sides can be cross-ventilated if the openings are large enough. But most homes are at least two rooms deep in many places, so you also need to look at airflow through the whole house in order to ventilate the rooms effectively. Think of your house as a system of corridors and doorways that can channel air from one end to the other.



     One of the things you can do to help your parents ventilate your home naturally so they don’t spend as much money to heat and cool your home is to do some easy experiments such as making a pinwheel to check the airflow in your home. Walk around your house or apartment and try to feel how air moves through it.

Take a piece of paper and write down:

1) what kind of windows does your home have: casements, double-hung or fixed?

2) Does your house have other ventilation openings (that is, vents, exhaust fans or turbine ventilators, a cupola)?

3) Are there operable windows or other vents on opposite ends of your house? Are some high and some low?

4) Can you open enough windows to provide good ventilation in hot weather?

5) Does your landscaping funnel breezes to your house in summer and protect it from cold winter winds?

6) Does your house’s enclosure have cracks that admit cold air in winter or hot air in summer?

7) How high are your ceilings? Do they allow warm air to collect high in the room, which can be a blessing in summer and a problem in winter?

8)  Do vents or fans exhaust unwanted air, such as unpleasant smells and excess moisture?

9)  Even with windows open, are there “dead air” zones in your house?


              Do you want to know how they used to cool large buildings like movie theatres before they had air conditioning?

  • Take a bowl and put some ice in it.
  • Put a small fan behind the bowl
  • When the ice starts to melt turn on the fan and put your face in front of the fan
  • As the ice melts water vapor raises and the fan will blow in on your face, cooling you off

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       Open up the house and let it air out. In our June 2008 newsletter I told you that in Japan it used to be that every house would be opened up for several hours each morning no matter what the weather was…rain, snow, sleet to help prevent mold.

Assign all the members of the family, even the dog and cat, jobs to do.

1)  Clean the windows inside and out. In our part of the country, it starts to get chilly in late September and it will probably be too chilly to do it comfortably later.

2)  Vacuum all the rooms. Move all the furniture out of the way so you can get into all those tight spots that seem to collect dust. This is also a good time to rearrange the furniture, which is sure to drive your husband or friend crazy.

3)  Air out area rugs. Wash summer rugs and/or inspect and eco-clean heirloom rugs and carpets.

4)  Open all closets and cabinets to get fresh air flowing…feel the breezes as they flow through the house. You will feel refreshed and your home gets its chance to breath.

If you do a thorough cleaning I think you will feel a renewed desire to start organizing your home. There is always a continuous shuffling of “do this…then do that” and it’s so much easier to stay caught up instead of trying to “catch up.” As you work, your tasks DO become simpler and less demanding and become a routine part of your creating a “healthy home.”

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     Now that mom has us cleaning and our kids have us becoming aware of our house’s airflow, let’s look at how your house is constructed. Look at the air motion notes your child made and try to see if the combination of breezes, how your house or apartment is placed on your lot, room layout and openings (windows and other vents) might be improved to make the best use of those breezes. If your home isn’t oriented to face the prevailing breeze, you can use landscaping or build a wall on the windward side of your house to direct the breeze to your windows or vents.

     You can also enhance the effectiveness of cross ventilation by naturally cooling the air before it enters your home. Shade, plantings or water (in arid climates), in the form of a pond, fountain or mister, all can remove heat from the air. When located on the windward side of your home, these features will increase your indoor comfort in hot weather.

Also, the openings that allow air to pass through your home needn’t always be windows. We ask windows to do many things: admit light, welcome solar heat, frame views and provide ventilation. But these functions often have conflicting requirements. In hot arid climates, for example, breezes are more desirable than sunlight. Sometimes the best solution — particularly in a remodel situation — is to provide vents that are separate from windows. Adding sun protection, insect screens, louvers, insulated doors or a combination of these will allow you to fine-tune your new vents. A good example from historical buildings is a cupola with louvered vents all around that allow warm air to escape as it rises, inducing air movement through the whole house.

     Have you ever heard of “the chimney effect?”  When air, which is a gas, is heated, it expands, becomes lighter and rises. This is why the upper floors in a house are always warmer than the lower floors. If the rising warm air escapes high from a house or building, cooler air, which is heavier than warm air, will move into the lower part of the house or building. How fast the air flows up, out and in, is determined by the vertical distance between inlets and outlets, the size of the openings, and the difference in air temperature from the bottom to the top of the chimney. The air will flow faster as the difference between each of these measurements grows larger. The chimney effect doesn’t require your house to be located in any specific orientation to the prevailing breezes. Once the thermal gradient, (wow, big word), which just means the difference between temperature of the hot and cool air, is set up, the chimney effect will keep going by itself.

     If you have a tall house with multiple levels and/or high ceilings you can probably use the chimney effect to cool your house. You can use an existing stairwell other vertical air passage to increase airflow in your house. However, even if your house doesn’t have an existing vertical path for air to flow, you can add a chimney or roof top vent to pull out hot air in summer. You can further enhance the airflow by adding a fan to increase airflow when necessary. As wind blows around the chimney, it will essentially suck air up the chimney. Many of the homes in our neighborhood were built in the 1940s and 1950s and many of them have a “whole house fan.” This is a large fan usually placed in the attic space that was used to pull air through the open windows of the house and let it leave through the side openings (eaves) in the walls of the house next to the roof. These were really effective because they were so powerful and the air flow is really remarkable when one of these large fans is turned on and the windows are open. By the way, never turn on the whole house fan without opening the windows because it puts a huge stress on the windows if they are closed.

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     We’ve talked about “the chimney effect,” but have you ever heard of “wind catchers?” If buildings or vegetation keep breezes from getting to your house — there’s another way to bring those breezes indoors. Wind catchers (also known as wind scoops) have been used for centuries in the Middle East, where temperatures are high and buildings are often packed close together. A wind catcher is a tower that rises from the house into the airspace above the rooflines. Its opening faces into the prevailing wind, scooping the breeze down into the rooms below. Capturing air higher up has additional benefits: The air is cooler, the breeze moves faster, and the air carries less dust. When the air is still, well-designed wind catchers can work in reverse, with the chimney effect drawing warm air upward and out of the house.

A wind catcher also can be an elegant solution where windows aren’t oriented well for capturing breezes because the wind catcher can be built or moved to catch the prevailing breeze. Based on knowledge of wind patterns in your area, you can design a wind catcher with openings in as many directions as you need.

Vegetation and other landscaping. You can use garden plantings and landscape walls to direct and even cool a breeze before it enters your home. Rows of leafy trees or tall, dense shrubs can funnel air to open windows, their shade and transpiration cooling the air as it moves through.

Turbine ventilators. The little whirling globes you may have seen on rooftops of older industrial buildings are turbine ventilators. Now making a comeback in naturally cooled homes, these vents use air motion at the roof level to pull air out of the house. While they act somewhat like a fan, they are entirely run by the breeze, which catches the fins of the turbine ventilator and makes it spin, pulling air upward and out through its openings. Cooler air can then enter at a lower level to replace the exhausted air.

Passive cooling measures can reduce energy bills by up to 40 percent. In addition to natural ventilation, the most effective cooling strategies, in order of increasing cost, are:

  • The minimization of indoor heat generation. For example, using energy-efficient light bulbs, reducing hot water use, using smaller and more efficient appliances and scheduling heat-producing tasks (such as clothes drying) for cooler hours of the day.
  • Weatherization. Caulking, sealing and weather stripping all seams, cracks and openings reduce heating and cooling energy requirements.
  • Insulation. Insulating your home or installing heat-reflecting foil reduces heat conduction into your living space.
  • Window shading and glazing. Solar radiation passing through windows can contribute 20 percent to heat gain in hot, humid climates. Window shading devices and glazing technology minimize heat gain while transmitting daylight, which reduces electrical lighting needs.
  • Roof whitening and attic ventilation. These are two effective measures to reduce heat gain by either reflecting heat away from the roof or flushing heat out through the attic.
  • Trees and landscaping. Planting broad, leafy shade trees that block the sun will reduce the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the house.

Things You Can Do Today To Improve Your Ventilation

  • Work with your windows to improve airflow. If your house has casement windows, you can use the windows to catch and direct airflow. If you have double-hung windows, you can open both sashes partway to let cooler air in at the bottom and warmer air out at the top. If you have operable transoms above doors and windows (interior or exterior), use them to exhaust hot air that collects near the ceiling; you might want to add transoms if you don’t already have them. If your house has more than one level, try opening high and low windows to pull air through the house vertically (remember the “chimney effect?).
  • Seal any cracks around the perimeter of your house.
  • Tune in to the breeze. When it’s hot, anything that amplifies your awareness of the breeze can have a psychological cooling effect. Hang a wind chime or bell, or plant bamboo or another “rustley” plant in the path of summer breezes, and enjoy the feeling of wind amplification.


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              In the August 2008 issue of SmartMoney magazine there is a two page interview with James Skinner, The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of McDonald’s Corporation.  The interview initially focuses on the remarkable improvement Mr. Skinner has made in increasing the financial success of McDonald’s. But one of his comments really made an impression on me. I’m going to quote it here:

“QUESTION: Some would argue that if you wanted to be part of the solution, McDonald’s , as an institution that changed the way Americans get their food, could…what I was going to say is that if you wanted to shift eating habits more, you probably could.”

ANSWER: If the consumer wants it. We can sell anything we want but people have to buy it…but if you can’t get your kids to eat vegetables, why is it my job? Having said that, if you want to choose apples or carrots with you Happy Meal, it’s there, and there will be more of that down the road.  But the truth is, it’s not my job to take away; it’s my job to add and say, here are some choices.  You have to make the decisions.”

              When I first read this I was struck by the quote the article highlighted, “We are not going to solve society’s obesity problems. People have to do that on their own…If you can’t get your kids to eat vegetables, why is it my job?”

              My first reaction was “why isn’t it his job?” One of the greatest changes in the way people eat which has led to the obesity epidemic has been the proliferation of fast food, that is, food that is easily obtained with a small amount of effort and at low cost to the consumer. If the only choices of food you have are a hamburger, fries and a soda then it is impossible to eat a healthy diet. Even though, according to the article, McDonald’s is the worlds’ largest buyer of apples and they offer apples and dip as a healthy option, why isn’t it their problem that children and families are gaining so much weight?

              However, my wife, saw it a different way. She said “you the parents are the role models for children so parents guide them in making better choices in what they eat and should make the final decision for what the children eat. As that role model it is up to you to guide them in making better choices in selecting what foods to eat. It is you who make the final decision for your children.”

 So unless you as the parent choose to eat fresh and colorful, seasonal foods to show your children the healthy way to choose foods, you can’t expect a Corporation to do this for you. Fast Food Corporations are in business to make money and only secondarily to provide a choice of healthy food. For example, “McDonalds” and “nutrition” are not words I use together in the same sentence. When you say to your family, “Let’s Eat at McDonalds,” you know that you will get a hamburger, fires and a soda and not expect anything else. You know that the family will have to obtain their daily requirement of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from other meals and it is not McDonald’s job to see that I get the nutrition our family needs from them.

              I do agree with Mr. Skinner when he says, “…you have to make the decisions.”  The bottom line is that we all obey the Law of Supply and Demand. The only way we as consumers have a meaningful voice in what foods our children eat is to shop with our feet when we eat out and buy groceries.  If there is no demand then the supplier must alter what they supply.  The best and most recent example of the law of supply and demand is the rapid rise and now slow fall of the price of gasoline. The price rose unexpectedly but as the use of gas has declined so has the price.

If people choose not to eat at fast food restaurants and demand healthier foods grown and prepared in a way to support the earth, then the restaurants will be forced to provide what the customers want.  But it is up to parents to demand healthier food choices for their children, and for themselves.


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Our free newsletter “The Worm’s Eye View” is uploaded to the computer each month. Each issue includes valuable information for all members of the family as well as the inclusion of the most up-to-date information concerning medical research and treatments.

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You should read my latest book, “Solving the Weight Loss Puzzle.” Please go to the order page and read part of the first chapter. You will learn a lot from this book why everyone has gained weight and the Three Secrets to normalize your weight.


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