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Cupolas | Passive Building Cooling | Convection Cooling | Copper Weathervanes

Updated on July 13, 2012

Prior to air-conditioning buildings were designed and built to utilize natural cooling methods. The cupola concept was brought over with the original settlers,

A traditional cupola with copper top and copper weathervane can add a touch of class to a building.

Most might not consider these as a potential passive building cooler though. These building toppers have been around ever since the colonies where settled, and are most common to the East coast and Southern historical landmarks.

A cupola can be decorative as well as a functional attic cooling system. Based on the principle that heat rises, a vented cupola creates a vacuum. As the heat reaches the highest point inside (the cupola) it vents out the top and creates a convection draft pulling additional hot air behind it.

Prior to air-conditioning buildings were designed and built to utilize natural cooling methods. The cupola concept was brought over with the original settlers, and utilized to provide natural passive convection cooling.

Barns were equipped with large tall stack looking cupolas to help cool the structure during hot summer days. The higher the stack the more convection air is pulled out the top, thus one of the reasons barn cupolas became such a grand addition to many of barns across the country.

Costal homes utilized window cupolas to allow both light and the availability to open the windows for ventilation. These provided the first skylight concept but instead of just ventilating an attic the open ceiling concept allowed a natural convection chimney to also pull hot air out and fresh cooler air into the home.

Today cupolas are mainly used for decoration, but with the push towards more efficient homes and buildings this could once again be a viable option to help in the passive cooling concept.

An attic that can be cooled down just 10° can have a significant savings in the overall energy cost in cooling a building. Best of all this passive convection system keeps on working with not energy cost!

Cupolas can still be purchased in traditional wood with the famous copper top or now in maintenance free recycled plastic lumber. Maintenance free is a good idea, especially on a steep roof where painting would be difficult.

As for the weathervane, it is decorative feature but just like in the olden days knowing the wind direction may still be a benefit to those who are hoping for a great Northerner to cool off things a bit.

The Amish know the value of passive cooling and building quality cupolas. You can purchase venting and window cupolas, as well as copper weather vanes at Cottagecraftworks .com

Cottage Craft Works is a back-to-basics general store that features many different types of Amish American made products for the home, farm, and ranch.

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