Here are some basic concepts to help you lower summer cooling costs by putting off the massive energy usage of your air conditioner for as long as possible. Ten Easy Ways to Keep Cool Without AC
How do you keep cool at home?
Great article, Jilly...wonderful ideas!
Thanks, Dianne! Today is 93 degrees and a bit unseasonally hot for april. I am following my own advice today -
- windows open all night, with a table fan in the windowsill
- have non-south facing windows open for a cross breeze
- using a table fan in the window of the room I am in
- keeping the doors shut during the hot hours
- shades drawn on windows that get bright light
- no cooking inside! I have a microwave on my porch and used it to heat up some decaf coffee and leftover pizza
- keeping as many lights off as possible
- bathed in cool water midday
- drinking lots of fresh water
- wearing light cotton clothes and flip flops
- not being active in the midday - saving moving around type activities for the evening!
I will add that i am very comfortable this way. It feels like a nice 70 degrees in here. I can feel the difference if i venture outside!
It cooled off for a few days and then we had a rainstorm. SLowly the temps are creeping back up. Today was comfortably in the 80s, with a few 88-90s days coming up this week.
This will be a good time to do more experimenting with keeping cool. Thus far, a table fan is a must, as well as keeping windows and doors open at night and shut during the day. (at least when the nighttime temps are cool enough to sleep through).
I am also going to mess around with portable window insulating ideas, and using cool washcloths during the day.
Today worked well - kept the door shut and window cracked with a fan in front of it. Lights off and did not cook inside except for heating a beverage in the microwave.
Doing well tonite - got the door and window open, table fan on the windowsill.
It will be in the upper 80s and 90s all this week, so we will see how it works. Remember, my goal is no AC until it reaches 100!
Here in northern Indiana we get really hot and HUMID days in the summer. My little house came with AC but I try to use it as seldom as possible. Luckily, the house has a full basement that stays pretty cool, and on hot days I turn on the furnace fan to circulate that nice cool air upstairs. I open all the windows overnight, and have window fans on the east side to push cool air inside all night. Then at sunrise I shut all the windows and close the curtains. Despite this, when the indoor temp gets to 82 (my melting point) I finally turn on the AC to about 78, but usually only have to do that a few days a year.
Now for a pet peeve. I have several neighbors who NEVER open their windows, but run their AC from spring till fall, night and day. Don't they realize how nice fresh air smells, and how lovely and cool it usually is? I just can't understand them!
It is definitely not a healthy environment in that house if it is never aired out. That would not be ideal for me! Fresh air is my preference whenever possible, but I do not have a high tolerance for heat and humidity.
I like your tips, Jilly.
Where I live though I would never make it to 100 degrees without the a/c turned on. It would be just too humid and hard for me to breathe. I think you have a little more leeway in a drier climate.
Thank you, Debbie. (BTW, I miss calling you Cassie!)
Yeah, I do have to caveat that i live in a very dry place. That makes a big difference. If this was a humid state, I am not sure exactly when i would draw the line at turning on the AC. I would try to prolong the coolness as long as possible with other ways, I think. Or maybe I'd just give up at 85 degrees - does that seem to be when most people do it?
With this arid AZ climate, I can acclimate to anything in the 90s. Once it reaches over 100 F, though, it is too oppressive for me and I get miserable. That's why this summer I hope to spend most of it camping in the mountains.
I lot of people in the American West use swamp coolers and I don't know about the energy usage for those. I know it is a ton less watts than AC - it uses water to cool things down.
I have a window AC unit and that suffices for my studio. Let me look at last summer's bills.
Okay, I just documented my thoughts in the electrical bill thread. Here is the link where I discuss my observations on my electrical use from month to month.
Claybird, I hear you on the humidity and indoor temps! I am miserable in humid climates.
I am using the outdoors temps as a guideline - so for me, when it is 100 outside. I don't know what my indoor temps would be as I have no way to measure in here. I am hoping that my techniques can keep things significantly cooler than outside.
I love fresh air too. I really do try to air things out inside my home daily, even in winter, if only for a few minutes to get some good air exchange.
What's nice right now about having the windows open and no AC on is that I can hear all the outside sounds - birds, wind in the trees, randy feral cats screeching...
Since I live in Miami the AC is on most of the time. When we do have a dry day, I will turn off the AC and open the windows before I leave for work. If the AC is left on, I do set it at a higher temperature while I am gone so it doesn't run as much.
Jeanne, that is good that you are active in your awareness about AC use! I like how you will note if there is a dry day, so you can transfer in some fresh air and hopefully pick up a few breezes.
Florida has got to be the most humid, hottest state in the US for the most months of the year. I'd be all over the AC too.
You are in a townhouse - an outer unit? I think the units in the middles have the advantage for being able to leech off the AC or heat from the ones along the sides.
With a townhouse, I'd think if you can, to crack an upper story window and a lower story window to create a cross current. Heat will rise to the second floor. The lower floor will naturally just be cooler.
Thick drapes over any south or west facing windows or glass doors is pretty much a must. This will deflect a lot of the outdoor heat from coming inside, and help trap the nice cool AC air inside.
Our townhouse has windows at the back and front so I can get a good breeze running through the entire place. I like to air out the place every so often. As someone else said, it's healthy to do that.
Another thought: Can you turn the AC a bit lower and spend the hottest parts of the day downstairs, or even not at home at all?
The bedrooms are upstairs so that is what happens naturally. While school is in session no one is home between the hours of 8:30am and 3pm. Elizabeth comes home around 3pm and then I'm home by 4:15pm. So we have a good six hours where the AC isn't running as much and it's during the hottest part of the day. Also, I keep the blinds closed on the side of the house where the sun happens to be. That helps a little bit.
Summer in Kansas can be very humid. Our previous house was stucco, built in 1926, and shaded by large oak and walnut trees in the front and back.
We bought a whole house window fan and put it in the window. In the evening, we opened windows on both sides of the house to pull cooler air through. In the morning,we would watch the thermometer, and when the outside temp was almost the same as the inside temp, we would close the windows, pull the heavy drapes, and move as little as possible. By the end of the day, our house was 10-15 degrees cooler than the outside temp.
Jilly....I miss my alter ego, Cassie, as well!
When it gets to be over 70 degrees in the house, and it is hot and humid outside, then it is time for a/c if the air inside seems very stuffy.
I am one who cannot tolerate heat and humidity.
Fresh air is the best substitute for the scorching summers. Especially here in India where the temperatures soar up to 35 degrees! Whoosh, what a hot and humid summer!
Hi Jodie! Yes excellent points! Is all of India humid, are are there dryer areas? Fresh air can only help in most matters, in most places.
Update: Today was 90 degrees F and the rest of the week is supposed to be 88 - it was plenty cool in the studio with my techniques.
Connie, those are some great ideas! What exactly is a whole house fan?
I love your cooling tips for both the house and the car. Trying to be more aware of where I park so I don't melt before I get moving and get the air flowing through the windows.
As someone else said, here in northern Indiana it is humid. DH has emphysema so we have to keep the AC on if it is at all humid.
Debbie, do you have any decent box or window fans? I think you could get rid of much of the stuffiness, by using cracking the right windows (get a cross breeze and use windows that do not face the south especially), and putting the fans in the right place (one to help draw in cool breezes from a north facing open window, and one on your work area whether it's the computer, bedroom or kitchen). Also keep shades and doors drawn during the day, and open at night.
Fans use <i>tremendously</i> less watts than AC units, so this could really help with electric bills.
Not that you have to do this, of course, but it could be fun to experiment with temperatures! Say you had a goal of not needing the AC until it becomes 75 instead of 70. Just for a fun research project. I know, I am such a nerd.
Lynne, i wonder if a dehumidifyer would help your hubby, so on some days you won't need the full AC?
Good thought. We will have to consider that.
I just learned to read my electric meter today and am so excited!!! I used about 126 kwh this month - which is a tremendous difference from last month's 457 kwh!
I attribute the change from last month to this month to:
1. Dan leaving and taking his many, many electronics with him
2. Unplugging the electricity to my RV and the RV fridge
3. Switching out the appliances I use now with lower watt ones i am finding on sales, at thrift stores and at garage sales
4. Switching all energy vampire appliances over to power strips and making sure to keep them off when not in use!
Probably in that order. I am documenting all this in various threads in here. I'll collect those links and add them here. So i am serious about decreasing my energy use.
It will be exciting to see just how low I can get this electric bill. I was told the minimum for a house with the circuit breakers off is $10 a month (service fees and taxes). Let's see just how close I can approximate that...
I'm also not using the AC yet. So far my Fan Plan is working well. I am very comfortable inside, even though it's 90 degrees outside.
On the phone, APS told me that most people start seeing a big jump in their bills around this time, due to AC use. So for me to get a large decrease makes me deeply happy. This is such a fun game! And honestly i am very comfortable.
Wow Jilly.....you are doing great! You are very organized and detail oriented. Let us know how you make out....I am intrigued!
Thank you, Debbie. I find this all very fun. It's like a game, but i actually get a prize for this one: my own money saved!
It's also an education to see just how tied we are to the utility grids. We so easily forget what a luxury instant-on electric power is.
Today it's 91 degrees and I still feel comfortable. I have two fans on - one in the window, and one by my face at the computer. I had the door open a little bit and it was a mistake - a lot of heat came in. It's closed now and i have the curtains mostly drawn.
Tomorrow will be 93 and then i have several days at 97...that is where the real test of my resolve will come through!
Here is a handy set of links for my forum posts about: learning to read your electric bill
A few radical electricity saving ideas - take a look in this thread
Here is another: What fans have the least watts
And for people in the winter zones: make a low watt heat bubble
I welcome discussion on these threads!
Okay, it's 95 today and with my techniques i feel like it's in the 70s inside my studio.
It really helps that the nighttime temps are in the 60s, so i get to draw in all that nice cool air and let it set in here under my great insulation during the day. The fans are working nicely. I feel completely comfortable. Of course, it's only 1pm.
Around 2-3pm is when the coolness seems to run out and then it gets hotter inside. my plan for today is to leave the house around 2pm and not come back until dark (i have class tonite and some errands).
I feel good about avoiding the heat by leaving the house when it's hot!
When I take off I will be shutting down the breakers also, as part of my minimizing watts experiments.
I used to jump in the shower when it got hot and the house didn't have central air. But now we live in a different house and I break down and turn on the air-conditioner far too often!
Hi Lori! Yes, a cold or tepid shower does exactly the trick. It cools the body, blood and brain. It's really not important to cool the house down so much as keep our bodies cool. I think we all miss this distinction sometimes!
Thank you for the reminder! And remember, no hot showers unless you have an outdoor shower. You do not want to create heat in your home. I am even making my morning coffee on the porch!
Blech. It's 97 degrees. This is 15 degrees more than it's supposed to be here in May. And 97 apparently for the remainder of the week.
What is interesting is that it's actually really comfortable inside the studio, with using all my techniques. But as soon as I go outside the heat pushes down on me. 97 is still bearable to an extent - I just can't move around outside much. Gentle moving only! And in the shade!
But inside I am still quite comfortable. I am glad this testing is working!
It's not supposed to be 100 until July...i bet there will be a day this month though. Extended forecast shows the temps will be retreating back to the 80s. I hopes, I hopes!
LOL. This is exactly why desert creatures spend the days under a rock!
It's 91 today, which by local terms is not really hot yet. I am plenty content inside with my door shut, shades shut, one small fan in a a non-southern facing window, a fan mid-way in the room, a fan by my face at the computer, the lights off and drinking cool water. I am wearing loose fitting, light colored cotton clothes - shorts and a tee. Flip flop sandals.
I do not feel hot or uncomfortable in any way. If i did, i'd switch out to my larger fans and add a cold washcloth to my neck.
caveat - it's dry here, of course.
The upshot is i am using 53.5 watts on cooling instead of 1500 watts on the AC. Look at those numbers! It's ridiculous. I am saving 1446.5 watts and this is so easy. This is not even including the AC starting surge of 2500-5000 watts.
And I am totally comfortable. Trust me, I hate being hot and melty. If it was over 100 i'd be cranking the juice immediately, or leaving the house for someone else's AC.
Is anyone ready to try this?
I had to break down and buy a fan today, the heat and hot flashes are driving me crazy! Your method sounds like something I am definitely going to try tomorrow.
I live in a converted garage that is part of a large house so my room temperature is maintained separately from the rest of the house.
Here in Orlando it's humid and the hi-temp runs between 85-95 for the past month or so with a few days falling outside those bounds.
I purchased a small, energy efficient, window AC for my room which I rarely use. I can open a window and a door and get a nice cross breeze. I also bought a window fan - two small fans that fit nicely in the window space and make very little noise.
With the fans and cross breeze I can make it through the day without using the AC. Occasionally in the late afternoon the breeze will die down and I'll have to turn the AC on but that only happens about once a week.
The only time I really use my AC is at night. The nights here can be rather stuffy and there is little or no breeze. Plus, I can't keep the door open at night - spiders come in - so there is no cross breeze. When I turn the AC on it cools the room off within about 15 minutes and then goes off and usually doesn't come back on again for the rest of the night.
I also turn my PC off at night. Normally I would leave it running but a PC is essentially a small heater. If I left it on it would draw power and would also require the AC to occasionally kick in to cool things off. Now during the winter when/if it's actually cool enough to need heat at night then the PC acts as a nice little heater so I'll leave it on.
Wouldn't it be cool (ha, ha, pun not intended) to build a home that was partly underground or in a hill. It would stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
That is one of my fantasies.
Hi dianne! A fan is a very good investment. Is this a big fan for the window, a room fan, or a small one for your desk?
Can you tell me what the number of watts is on the bottom? I have a huge interest in fans right now!
polyGeek, I am hugely impressed with your fortitude. Florida is humid! How are you handling the humidity? Is turning on the AC for a short time sufficient for cooling things off enough?
I think that's a great idea to use the AC to take the edge off. i am sorry about the spiders.
It sounds like you are using the AC like I use my fridge - i try to keep it from going on at all, and then when it does kick in, It just normalizes the cool temps i need.
YES on the PC being a heater! I've been trying not to use any heater type things inside - no coffeepots or such, but with the computer i need to be inside where it is cool. At least my netbook makes a small draw. The external monitor is something I might want to consider avoiding if it gets to the high 90s, though.
Has it got to the 100s yet? I don't know much about florida summers but my guess they are worse than AZ summers.
You are lucky the space you live in is pretty much self contained; you're free to experiment without worrying about the rest of the household. I bet you could get your garage going on solar if you wanted to. Or running on a wind turbine? I don't know what kind of wind you have there, but my guess is there's plenty of sunshine.
Kay, i'd love an underground home. Whenever i get a chance to tour one, I love it. I've seen a few and they are always so calm and cool. I also like the idea of a Hobbit hole. COZY.
It's a good fantasy.
I have a book called something like Build an Underground Home for $50. It was written in the 70s but it has some really good ideas, and plans for expanding from the small space they start you out with.
I really wanted to thank everyone for participating in this discussion. It's a topic i am very interested in exploring.
Where I live in the desert Southwest, people have lived for thousands of years without AC. From studying their living choices, architectural features and chosen home locations, I don't think they suffered greatly from the heat. The peoples lived in river valleys, within shaded rock alcoves and within thick cool insulated adobe walls with excellent cross breeze placement.
They had water filled earthen pots places in hot doorways to make a swamp cooler effect. They cooked outside. They took cold dips in the streams. They would lie low in the hottest hours and work hard in the cool mornings and evenings. None of this sounds terrible to me.
In our society, every summer people die of hyperthermia in uncooled apartments. I can't help but think we are doing it wrong.
In any case, all this is my disclaimer about tomorrow. It's supposed to be 102. I really hope to NOT turn the AC on yet. I was thinking it wouldn't be that hot until late june. This has been a record setting heat month.
It seems to stay cool enough with my techniques until 2-5pm, when all the leftover night coolness seems to be totally replaced with hot air from outside.
I actually will be out of the house by 2:30pm, so this might work fine for me. I won't be back until 9pm or so. One of my techniques is avoiding the heat entirely. This isn't cheating. If it was good enough for the Anasazi and Sinagua peoples, it's good enough for me.
Anyway, here's the total plan - windows open all night with fans blowing cool air inside. Shades open. Door open. In the AM shut the door, shut all windows but the ones I crack with a fan to keep a cross breeze going. Shades shut.
Do not cook inside. The coffee pot and hot plate are on the patio.
Lights off unless I am doing something that requires task lighting. No incandescent (heat-making) bulbs ever.
No hot showers that will create indoor heat. A cool afternoon shower is always lovely when it gets warm. I can use cold washcloths from my freezer for my neck if i need to, and if i go outside. There is a fan at my desk that blows across my face.
Drink lots of cool water.
I am also thinking to wet down a sheet and hang it over the window i have my fan in, to create a free evaporative swamp cooler effect. I can try adding more wet towels to my desk area and see if that helps too.
Okay. This is my plan. I will report! Remember, I hate being hot and melty. I am not some special Amazon woman who shrugs off the heat!
The last two days have been 103 and 100, and I feel fine inside. I have three fans running - one in the window, one in the middle of the room and one on my face at the desk. I am surprised at how comfortable it is in my studio.
If I go outside i immediately feel the heat rushing in the door, and if i am out for more than a few minutes it starts getting uncomfortable. But then i can come back into my cool, shaded studio and my body temps starts going back immediately to comfortable.
I wonder how long I am actually go without AC? It's over 100 now, so i reached my goal. It's still cool at night, and that must be what is making the difference.
Once it gets hot at night, I will probably have to succumb to the temptation. Hopefully that is a month or two off from now. I like my $5 electrical bills!
Wow, do you really have $5 electricity bill? I'm jealous. I do like to try to reduce our A/C use by opening the house up at night and then closing it up during the day.
Hi Dannica! Yes, my electric use was only $5.66 last month. With taxes and fees and my low-income discount (30% off), my total bill this month was $13.36.
I am told that the taxes and fees alone, even if the circuit breaker is off all month, is still $10. With my 30% low income discount, the very least I can see having a monthly bill with my electric company (APS) will be $7. That is the lowest actual bill i can shoot for. I have no control over the service charges, unfortunately.
For my own purposes I am measuring how many watts I use, since I do have total control of this part!
That is fantastic you are using the natural temperature of the landscape! Opening and closing up the house is such a simple and free way to cool things down.
Update: I've actually had a few hundred degree days here, but i haven't felt i needed to turn on the AC yet. I think it's b/c the nights are still nice and cool, and this keeps the studio comfortable until late afternoon/evening. And by that point it's cool enough outside to be outside.
So there is still no AC use happening here. When the nights start to get hot, I will see how little i can get away with using the AC to take the edge off. Or just leave to camp at elevation instead.
I think, more than anything, it's going to be the gnats that make me leave for the summer.
This useful forum has a comment with an idea i've been kicking around - wetting down sheets to make a swamp cooler effect: Cheap RV Living
My ex-husband and I lived in a tiny third floor walk up with no AC. We used to take our spare sheets and wet them/ wring out then hang them with a fan aimed at them - one in each room we wanted cooled down. It worked well enough for us to be comfortable.
Wearing damp socks with a fan aimed at them will also lower your body temperature. We use this method with animals who are suffering heat exhaustion. We soak their paws with alcohol. (Please do not douse your socks in alcohol and walk near any fire source - use water on your socks!)
I do like the socks idea, too. Had not thought of that. It sounds a little damply unpleasant, but if it was hot enough, it might feel great.
The same thread has a cheap recipe below that quote for making a cold pack from dish soap. Actually, it seems to be green dish soap in a baggie, with another baggie. I don't know why the dish soap has to be green. But it seems like a frugal way to make your own chillable ice packs to sleep with or sit with.
This sciency type article discusses the different natural cooling methods available in the Southwest USA: AZ Solar Center
Things mentioned are radiative, evaporative, convective, and passive solar cooling, and also managing solar gain.
What I found interesting was the idea behind radiative cooling. It seems to use the blackness/coldness of space to radiate cold air to a "water pond" film.
At night. panels are rolled back, exposing the ponds to the black body of the night sky and to the cooler night air and breeze. The ponds lose heat by radiation to the night sky and by natural convection to the air. Roof pond systems are particularly effective in regions of low humidity and clear summer nights.
It sounds like something a science fiction space station would do. I guess it's the opposite of solar heating (ie - solar radiation). I've never heard this mentioned before. Interesting.
Today I put the AC on. I feel kind of bad about it, since my expectation was that I hoped to wait until the monsoon season beginning in July.
Here is what happened: It was 106 outside and I was prepared to wait it out with my techniques. I woke up with a female problem that kept me in bed, and I also had a friend visit from out of town. I didn't want my friend to be uncomfortable, so i decided to try the AC. With feeling sick, I didn't have the energy to use all the techniques to keep it cool in here and knowing it was 106 outside, I gave myself a pass.
I put the AC unit on Low and set it for Energy Saver mode.
It really feels delicious, but i don't want to make this a habit until it really does get out of control hot here. The nights are still in the 60s and that cools things down tremendously.
Tonite i will turn the unit off and go back to fans until - hopefully - July. Or at least late June. At least May just squeaked by without it!
I did a bad bad thing by putting on the AC that day. Now I want it. LOL. I think actually the nights are warmer, so it's making the afternoons hotter. I'm still holding out...
In the meantime, here are some ideas for alternative cooling
using zeer pots, an evaporative cooling shelf, and a radiant solar cooler. If that last sounds contradictory, it's a pretty cool idea.
More solar and other alternative cooling ideas can be found here.
Ice houses! Spring houses! There are new technologies and old for cooling, but my impression is that none are really easy. Which explains a lot about the history of food preservation, doesn't it?
It's been between 108 and 100 consistently now here, so i finally am using the AC unit. Also, the biting gnats go right through any open screens, and they make me get long red welts. So as predicted, the gnats drove me to the AC.
What's nice is I have a very small area to cool. A small window unit does the whole studio and uses 270 watts on the Low and Energy Saver Settings. I also keep the AC temp within the 70s-80s (and off when i am gone), and use fans to cool down my actual 'use area' = either the bed or desk.
So far my bill hasn't risen! I am sure it will next month. We will see.