Air conditioning is a fact of life and most of us are quite happy to live in cooled air as the summer heat and humidity soar. We are not as happy when we get the monthly electric bill, and with energy prices skyrocketing, we are all looking for ways to reduce costs.
One good way is to turn off the air conditioner.
We’re not kidding! Summertime is tolerable with no or less a/c. You may not be ready to give it the heave-ho, and who can blame you, particularly if you live in certain areas of the country? But there are ways to save energy and not lose your sanity.
Close up the house. Some people call this “French air conditioning” and while we are not sure why, it seems to work pretty well. Before the day heats up, close the downstairs windows and pull the blinds. Leave the upstairs windows open a crack to let hot air escape, but close the blinds. This traps cool overnight air in the house. It is most effective in households where everyone is gone for most of the day, but is worth trying regardless.
Open the house at night: In the evening, as the sun sets and the air cools, open windows and doors to create cross breezes and let cool, night air in.
Use fans: Fans use far, far less energy than air conditioners. Most are quite inexpensive. Box fans are effective for pulling in cool night air when placed in windows. Rotary fans are better for circulating air. Ceiling fans are terrific. All will help you sleep.
Fans tend to cool you by about 10 degrees when your skin is exposed to them. However, fans cool people, not rooms and so there is no benefit to leaving them on when you are not in the room.
Fans are efficient to use with air conditioners. You can raise the temperature of the a/c and rely on a strategically placed fan to push cool air over you and lower the temperature of the air even further. This will help with energy bills.
Dress right: Wear light colors and loose clothing. Go barefoot as much as you can. Wear hats in the sun.
Go outside: Seek shade and sit quietly in it. A large tree will offer a cool refuge every time.
Drink water: Hydrate yourself as the day goes on. The best drinks for hot weather have no caffeine or alcohol. Drink iced water, decaf iced tea, fruit punches and juice. Sip water all day long; you will feel cool.
Eat lightly: Eat light meals and limit cooking. Cold cereal and fruit in the morning, a small salad and some bread at midday and perhaps a grilled steak or chicken breast in the evening accompanied by grilled veggies and icy sorbet will keep you cool.
Don’t use appliances: Avoid heating up the kitchen with appliances such as the stove and dishwasher. Try not to use the dryer during the heat of the day (line dry your clothes if you can). Even keeping the TV and computer turned off will help keep the house cool as both put off heat.
Use window units: We all like central air, but a window unit uses far less energy and cools only the room you and your family are occupying. Consider this as an option to cooling the entire house all summer long.
No one is advocating eliminating air conditioning. It’s a wonderful invention that benefits many, many people. If you are healthy and game, however, you can do with a lot less a/c than you might imagine. Not only will you be comfortable, you will be helping the earth — and your pocketbook — in the process.