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We've a 1870's carpenter gothic which, at some point in the past, had awnings on the second floor windows.  Since we lack AC, I'm thinking of trying to add some to the house once again, in order to reduce the sunlight pouring in the house in the afternoon, which really overheats that floor.  Has anyone any experience with getting brand-new awnings made and installed for an old house?  Was it expensive?  Was it worth it?  I'd be glad to hear of your experience.

Many thanks.

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no experience having them made or installed, but have been in c. 1920 houses which have them and they work.

Standard way to cool a house in the summer, practiced by my Ohio and New England relatives, which from personal experience I can say works:
open the house at night, especially a low window and one at the top of the house - the door to the basement and the attic window work very well. If you have a breeze open windows on both sides of the house. Many old houses I know have interior doors and windows lined up to facilitate this.
at 7am close up the house, close windows, pull shades and curtains.
If done consistently the house will stay cool.
I think that awnings allow for the sort of indirect window light that a wrap around porch gives to downstairs rooms. This allows natural light without the heat and without the room darkening properties of heavy drapes or interior shutters. Being much less sturdy than front porches, I would expect regular maintenance on them. By the way, Jane's method works on all but the hottest and most humid days of summer. We have central A/C and still do that to some extent, but without AC, I would use an attic fan to turbo charge the evening cooling process. I like to leave my door standing open in the morning when I go to get my paper in from the front porch (I have a screen door), and often open my back door at the same time to move a lot of air through the house when it is cool outside. I have found that a screen door has about 2 or 3x the square footage of screen as a normally opened window, and you don't need to think as much about what is open and what is closed when you leave your house or turn on the AC.
Thanks to both of your responses. the only problem with relying on passive circulation is that the previous owner divided the second floor into front and back suites, thus destroying any flow-through. Using the open-doors method in the morning does a pretty good job of cooling off the first floor, but the second is the real problem. The awnings were just a thought I'd had about how to reduce the afternoon heating. And they look cool. too. One reason I'd thought of them is that I presume that they'd allow me to keep the windows open wider at night without worrying about rain blowing in as much as it does right now, thus allowing for greater evening air circulation.

But I suspect that unless I spend a ton of money to rip out a bunch of newer dividing wall on the second floor, along with all of the system stuff therein, I'm just stuck. Ultimately, the problem really boils down to the fact that he radically re-configured the second floor, in a manner which makes it almost impossible to open it up again unless I do another radical re-reconfiguration, which I can't really afford, and which I'm not entirely sure is even possible.
can you add a door or two - or even a transom as was done in old hotels to give air between the corridor and the rooms - between the 2 suites on the second floor, strategically placed to allow the breeze? are both connected to a staircase to the attic which could be opened at night? A whole house fan works well as Phil suggested.

Exterior shutters were supposed to be able to be shut - to keep out the heat as well as close off rooms not in use. Could you add shutters that you could control from the second floor windows? That hardware is still available. People who live on the coast are used to closing up - 'shuttering' - their houses in times of hurricanes, as well as off season. So the technology exists and might be less obtrusive than awnings.
In no order, some replies:

1) No stairwell to attic. Just a pull-down set of steps, otherwise the fan would be a good idea.

2) Doors aren't really do-able, since the new dividing wall is faced with bedrooms and a bathroom, and the bath has a tub installed against the common wall, so if I want to install a door, it either goes through a bedroom, thus destroying privacy, or it requires tub removal and re-plumbing.

3) I like the idea of a transom or other vent in theory, although it would need to be close-able in winter in order to keep the under-heated suite (generally non-occupied) from stealing too much from regular living areas.. Anyone seen a good-looking wall vent which might work?
a whole house fan fits into a hall ceiling, is supported by your attic floor joists. (You don't need to extend your pull down stair.) It is operated from below. You would need ventilation in the attic. This is often provided by gable windows open with screens in the summer, closed in winter.
Transoms are just windows high up on the wall. They can be fixed, just used to share light from one room into another, for example from a bath into a dark closet, or they can open for air. I have seen them clear, with frosted glass, and with stained glass.
The vent covers made for hot air ducts might be a simple solution. They open and close by hand. They can be had for floor or wall openings. I had one, floor mounted, above the wood stove in one house, letting heat into a bedroom in winter, and a breeze in summer. ( I installed a skylight in the ceiling above the vent - cooling breeze at night all summer.) For sound privacy we sometimes blocked it with solid insulation cut to fit.
The nice thing about awnings are that is can be custom made to fit your exact dimensions. You can choose between a lot of different awning materials as well to fit your budget. Believe it or not though getting awning around a few windows won't break your wallet though and it is cheaper than you think.

Dave
http://www.myuniversalawnings.com

I had awnings installed on the west side of my 1900 Shingle Victorian in 1999 or so. The frame is galvanized pipe with connectors made for this purpose. The fabric is Sunbrella, the state of the art in this application. They are wearing well, just a little wear where the attaching brackets, due to the movement in the wind we get in Michigan.

The temperature difference is amazing. I have central A/C now, but only use if for about 2 - 3 weeks in the summer (Detroit). Before the awnings, the house was a dutch oven, and once warm would not cool down even at nicht.

Lots of insulation helps too. I also planted a Liberty elm to help shade; it is doing a decent job on the first floor, but I need a few more years for it to help the second.

Mark

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