Your Place: Solar energy is there, why not use it to cool?

My appeal for comment on the solar vs. electric whole-house fans brought mostly off-the-topic responses and few thoughtful ones.

I'll share one from John Avery of Dayton, Ohio, a building-envelope-technology specialist:

"I would recommend you install the necessary number of solar fans on your roof. Why add another source of electric use when the technology is there?

"You can buy a solar fan for a tad over $200 at the big-box lumberyards. Installation is pretty straightforward. I can't imagine that a local handyman couldn't put one in for around $100.

"Make sure you increase your ventilation as well.

"Did you have any ice damming in your gutters last year?

"Most people think ice damming is caused by clogged downspouts. Possibly. But not likely.

"More than likely you have warm conditioned air entering your attic space via gaps, cracks, and holes in and along the ceiling.

"Ceiling fans, can lights (recessed), attic access panels/doors, roof/wall joints at the top sill plate, pipe penetrations, chases, and chimneys all offer air leakage opportunities.

"Filling those air leakage points also increases the efficiency of your HVAC system. . . .

"There is a new product out there you might find very interesting.

"It is a nanotechnology product that you apply to the underside of your roof. They do have a product you can apply directly to your roof shingles as well. Go to:

"Make sure to check out the video on how this nanotechnology blocks the transfer of heat."

Bill Matishen writes: "For a long and narrow house, I would suggest vents under eaves and a ridge vent along the entire roof instead of a fan. We did that on our house and threw away the useless attic fan. Energy cost zero."


Question: I live in a three-story retirement complex and I have silverfish that are driving me crazy. It is basically a wood structure and apparently not very well constructed.

The "spray man" comes once a month and sprays all around the baseboards, but still the little buggers are everywhere. Is there anything that I can do to get rid of these creatures?

Answer: Spiders are a natural predator, and I have spiders and no silverfish. Then again, that may not be everyone's solution.

Silverfish thrive in humid environments, and I've seen them climbing walls in damp basements. My basement is dry, and I've seen none. Then again, there are spiders in the basement, as well as crickets.

Here's what the Iowa State University Department of Entomology has to say (when in doubt, call in the experts):

For silverfish, eliminating moisture problems where the pests can develop may be of some benefit. Household residual insecticides applied as sprays, dusts, or baits can be used if conditions warrant.

Treat cracks, crevices, wall voids, and other likely hiding spots in the areas where the pests are noticed. Sprays need only be applied lightly and in localized areas of infestation.

Boric acid dust can be used. Boric acid has the advantages of being very low in toxicity and very long-lasting if applied in dry voids where it will remain undisturbed.

Tip-top conditioning. Here are some ways to keep your air conditioners at peak performance, from ServiceMagic:

Change the filter every four to six weeks. Having a clean filter can significantly reduce allergens.

Clean off the outside air compressor with water. A garden hose will do the trick.

Keep all things away from the compressor so that it has a free flow of air.

Have ductwork professionally cleaned every three to four years to help minimize dust.

Have the air-conditioning unit inspected by an HVAC contractor if it seems to be running ineffectively or inefficiently. This professional can make deft adjustments to your unit to ensure that it is in prime condition.


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.

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