War on Heat 3. Mechanical Means

11 - WOH3 Mechanical Means - Cover

(This is the 3rd in a series of articles tackling how we might possibly deal with the indomitable heat in the Philippines. If you haven’t checked them out yet, don’t sweat it. The articles read fine by themselves. When you have time, come back to War on Heat 1: The Cover Up and War on Heat 2: Designed to Breathe.)

In simpler times, you could have done all you could to cover up and insulate your house. If there wasn’t any wind to pull the hot air out though, then you were just out of luck. Of course, these days, we have mechanical ventilation.

Mechanical means

If to cover up is to defend, and allowing a house to breathe is to roll with the punches, employing mechanical means of cooling and ventilation is to attack heat head on.

Generally speaking, mechanical means of cooling covers any deliberate intervention and creative solutions to make man’s environment more suitable to his comfort. Commonly, this would refer to either of two things:

  1. Using fans
  2. Using Air-conditioning

Fans club

Indoor electric fans are the simplest solution. When you can’t get natural circulation through the entire space, pushing air towards you is straight forward, and relatively cheap. Whether it’s a fixed ceiling fan or of a portable stand or desk variety, the principle is the same. Blades spin at speed, slicing air and pushing it forward at such a velocity that you’re able to feel tangible air flow across your skin. The effect is dramatic. The relief, while immediate, comes at the cost of a tedious and constant pressure from the wind.

11 - 01

Alternatively, you could face the fan away from you. Try orienting your fan out a window. While you don’t get the immediate relief of the wind directly on you, it facilitates the venting out of hot air, allowing colder air to seep in and cool the entire room.

Exhaust fans work in that exact way. Located at the highest point in a room, fans pull the hottest air out. As in ventilating any space you have to make sure that you allow fresh air to replace whats been extracted. It’s unfortunate that so many restaurateurs fail to understand that basic idea. You need a way for air to come in to be able to push air out of any space, much less a bathroom.

HVLS Fans (High Volume Low Velocity) are an option when you have a tall enough space. Functioning opposite to smaller personal fans, HVLS fans move large volumes of air at low speeds. You don’t quite get the push from the wind, but the air exchange is constant and the area of effect is wide. This allows heat to dissipate and the cold air to get around. Under a constant slow flow of air you keep cool while keeping that hair on point at the same time.

11 - 02

Con Air

Of course there’s always the brute force approach to cooling. Air-conditioning is essentially a 2-part system where refrigerant is cooled by an outdoor condenser before its routed indoors. There it’s run through coils, and blown over by a fan. That transfers the cold from the coil to the circulated air, cooling the interior space.

11 - 03

Evaporative air coolers work similarly. Instead of having a distinct and separated 2-part system though, it’s all shoved in a box. More like a window-type air conditioner on wheels, it needs open air to exhaust its heat. In an enclosed space, you’ll be generating as much heat as you will cold, yielding a net zero temp drop, while possibly generating more humidity than you started out with.

Where fans can only circulate shade-cooled air, air-conditioners actively bring down the temperature in the interior. It comes at a cost though. The process that cools the refrigerant generates heat in the outdoor component.  And the equipment and chemical refrigerants mean that it costs more, both as a capital and as an operational expense.

Sometimes though, its not like you have much choice. For homes in the heart of the city, or highway adjacent where you have to avoid the dust and fumes, air-conditioning saves lives.


Heat will always be an issue to deal with. But between shading and allowing your space to breathe, there are solutions. From passive design to active interventions, each project has to be considered as a whole. Good architecture doesn’t just look pretty. It also has to be well adapted to its environment. In the Philippines that means adapting to the tropics, making design work for you, and not just trying to brute force the heat away (aka seeing air-conditioning as the first and be all and end all of cooling solutions.)

Take your time with your designer to figure out how your house can best handle the heat and the sun. You and your wallet will be the happier for it.


Have your own thoughts on possible ways to keep the heat of your home?
Email homebydesignph@outlook.com or leave a comment.

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