Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The air conditioner challenge

The first summer after we were married, we lived in a house without an air conditioning. I don't know how we survived it, but the fact is, we are both still alive and well. Not that long ago, many people lived without air conditioning, and some older folks still do.

This summer, we have been a bit lax about using the air conditioner. Quite simply, we pressed the button of the remote control whenever we felt a little hot - even my children learned to do that - and, oh joy! A heavenly blast of cool air in our faces, and how nice and comfortable we all felt. And, of course, all this coolness and comfort manifested itself in the electricity bill. 

It might seem a little late for changing our ways, this season anyway, but remember that in Israel, heat can last well into October and even until the end of it. Right now, in September, it's still very, very hot, and the only improvement I can feel, compared to the peak of summer, is in the shortening days - here in the hills it becomes pleasantly cool as soon as the sun leans low. 

So, I have challenged myself not to use the air conditioner, unless there's an absolute emergency, until the winter (when this challenge might have to be re-set, taking into consideration the new circumstance of cold). Today is the third day I've been following this practice and so far, so good. It really does make a big difference in our case, because the girls and I are generally at home, so we are speaking about giving up many hours of air-conditioning each day. 

So... what alternative ways have I found to cope with the heat? 

* I dress more lightly. Generally, for modesty's sake, I wear two layers - typically a longer-sleeved undershirt, and a short-sleeve or sleeveless top over it. But now, when I'm home and feel too hot, I take off the top, as well as my hair covering. 

* I slow down when I feel too hot. Often, after I've been outside, or after doing some frazzled activity (like very vigorous cleaning), I just collapse on the couch, turn on the air conditioner, and fan myself in the face saying, "It's so hot!" Well, now I do the same, minus the air conditioner. I sit down, grab a cool drink, fan myself in the face, and usually after two or three minutes I no longer feel as if I'm going to pass out from the heat.

* We spend afternoons outside. The house where we currently live doesn't have good insulation, and there just isn't much I can do about it. There are windows everywhere; I love the light but hate the heat. And by afternoon, all the accumulated heat just radiates off the walls. In contrast, outside it's very pleasant just as the sun is about to set, and that's when we usually take our walk, or I just sit outside with my crochet project or a book while the girls play in the sandbox.

Of course, these tips can be reversed for winter use: that is, dress more warmly, do some healthy exercise, and go outside when the sun shines!

There are also other things that help to alleviate the heat, such as mopping the floor with cool water, taking a cool shower, or having an all-natural popsicle


maria smith said...

Ah, the AC and summer! We struggle with it too. I keep it as low as possible, but summer is still expensive. I turn the AC off as much as we can handle. I like to think that all the effort, the green cleaning, frugal living, and more is good training for me and our whole family.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the desert & if it's not too humid where you live, a swamp cooler might work well.

What is a swamp cooler?


Thinking about this brings back memories! HTH!


Ganeidaz Knot said...

We live in northern Australia & it gets very hot & humid here in summer. We don't like air con but we have overhead fans, which don't use as much electricity & keeps the air moving, & we find them effective. We also tend to siesta in the hottest part of the day & work & walk very early in the morning or after the sun starts sinking.

Ann said...

This is probably old news to you, but something that works well for me, going without AC in the hot and humid midwest U.S., is cooling the house at night with every window open and fans blowing cool air in, then closing everything up very early in the morning.

Then I do everything I can to keep from adding heat to the house during the day: keeping windows closed until it's clearly cooler outside than in; keeping the window glass cool by covering it outside with tarps or shades; using the stove, oven, clothes dryer (not me!) only in the later evening; cooking outside with my crock pot and camping stove; turning off lights and other small appliances that produce heat.

I think this works for us because it almost always cools off to 70 -75F outside at night. We live in a large wooded area in the middle of many acres of farmland. If we lived in the city it would be very different. Hopefully you've got enough of a desert climate to get some dramatic day/night temperature differences as well. Good luck with your challenge!


Joy said...

What about setting the air conditioner on fan just to keep air moving or is the air that would come in too hot? Also, a cool washcloth or ice cube held at places of pulse. Cool water poured on your hair then put hair back into a bun at the nape of the neck helps me stay cool.

living from glory to glory said...

Hello, I think you are very thoughtful of your finances. It is a good lesson, we are so use to living at such ease and comfort.
Blessings, Roxy

Mrs. Anna T said...

Ann, unfortunately, for safety reasons we must lock every window at night. But I do open the windows early in the morning, then close them again around mid-morning, and open them again in the afternoon.

Joy, we do have ceiling fans, and they are a great help.

Anonymous said...

Something I tried this year with my big east-facing living room window was covering it with an emergency blanket (aluminum foil) during the day. It reflects the light & heat back out the window, and since it's one piece, is much easier to tuck up out of the way in the evening. Maybe something like that could help?

Anonymous said...

We once lived in Texas (which is a hot climate throughout the summer) and were told that you actually use more electricity when you turn the a/c off and on rather than leave it run, I guess this is for a central air unit. It takes more energy to cool the house back down than to keep it at a constant reasonable temperature. I enjoy your blog very much. Marie

Avigayil said...

Do you have a blender? Try iced yoghurt/fruit smoothie or iced coffee in it! So refreshing!

Mrs. Anna T said...

"you actually use more electricity when you turn the a/c off and on rather than leave it run"

Perhaps; but you certainly use less electricity when you don't turn the a/c on all day, than if you leave it run!