Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life Without Air Conditioning

*B* and I think quite frequently about our "forever home".  One day we'll move out of our very tiny townhouse, into a house that we can grow old in.  We dream of this house being built properly, with good shade trees and cross breezes, like houses used to be.  We talk about how people used to be of sterner stock, relatively at ease in the heat.  At least they didn't whine quite so much as we do.  So we decided to put off installing our window units.

We did install one window unit in Miss F's room.  At the end of May, it was over 90 degrees outside for four days.  We had tried to use fans and leave Miss F in just a diaper, but she was drenched in sweat.  In the end, it seemed better to have a happy, safe, well rested baby than to make some kind of ecological or frugal point.

*B* and I did a fair amount of research about energy efficiency and cooling our home.  This site is fascinating as far as energy useage and cost goes.  We always assumed that central air was more efficient than window units.  We didn't know how wrong we were!

Using Fans to Cool
Fans (ceiling, box, etc) cost very little compared to running a window unit.  Running a medium ceiling fan 24 hours a day - which we don't do - is 1/10th the cost of running a window unit.  And that window unit is about 1/4 the cost of a central air conditioning unit.  Now I know that we use more fans because we don't have a window units, and we have more window units because we don't have central air.  But we would need four window units (which we don't have) to make up the cost of central air, or a whopping FORTY fans to make up that energy consumption.

We have seven fans (three ceiling, two largish size, and two small size) and one window unit that run at different times a day. All of these running 24 hours a day cost about $121 per month, compared to $286 for central air.  We turn off all but one ceiling fan, a small fan, and a window unit at night, so that really is a lower number than $121.  Even now, Miss F's window unit is on since she's napping, but it's on energy saver set for 73 degrees.  Most of the time, that bad boy doesn't even kick on.  On her level of the house, there's a ceiling fan and a small fan on because I forgot to turn them off this morning.  On my level of the house, I have one small floor fan aimed at me, and one ceiling fan running.

 We don't actually turn this one off during the day because it's hard to tell when you've actually turned it off or not.  It takes forever to stop turning.

The best part about this fan (a Stanley) is that it has two outlets on the side to charge my laptop!

So here we are, in the end of June, with fans a-blazing.  Part of our success, so far, is the relatively mild weather we've been having.  In the last month, one day averaged in the 60s, ten days were in the 70s, fifteen in the 80s, and only four in the 90s.  The other part comes from good research on air circulation.

Our front door and our back door are not quite in line with each other.  We can open both doors and draw a little tiny bit of air.  I wouldn't even call it a breeze.  But the back door is directly across from our living room window.  We put a box fan in that window, pointed outward, to draw air through the rooms.  It's amazing how well it works!


Changing Personal Perceptions
In the winter, we set the thermostat to 60 degrees and tough out the cold.  We use blankets, layered clothing, and baking in the oven to keep the house warm.  Why shouldn't be do the same (though colder) in the summer?

We tend to wear lighter clothing now in the summer.  When at home without company, I'll wear a tank top and very light, flowy cotton shorts.  *B* tends to wear cotton shorts and a t-shirt (or no shirt if it's that hot).  Miss F often goes diaper only.

We also have a baby pool.  Yes, it's wonderful to "lounge" in the pool (which is 6 inches deep and five feet in diameter).  But it's what happens after lounging that makes it special.  Evaporative cooling is the same principle behind sweat - you get wet, and your body cools as that liquid evaporates off the skin.  After taking even a brief dip in the pool (sometimes just feet), we lightly towel off so that we don't soak the carpet, but we let the air flow do the rest.  It feels like the temperature has dropped ten degrees just by getting a little wet.  And showers tend to happen around 3 pm here for the same reason.

It doesn't hurt that *B*'s job is not air conditioned.  He works in a building that is often ten degrees hotter than it is outside.  He uses a Frogg Togg Chilly Dana Bandana, which is a triangular towel that keeps cool when wet.  

When *B* gets home, our house is fifteen degrees cooler than he's been dealing with all day.  So he's rather happy for the relief, even though others might find the room warm.

My favorite part of not having air conditioners in the windows?  Fresh air and light!  I always dread losing windows to the air conditioner in the summer.  Since our windows aren't full of air conditioner, we leave them open and enjoy the breezes that we do get.

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