Wednesday, July 10, 2013

No-air-conditioning update

I've written a time or two about the fact that we have no air conditioners in our house -- not central air, not window units, just trees and a few strategically located fans.   (By "a time or two", I just realized that I usually write about this toward the beginning of July.  Go figure.)

Often, I can get pretty smug about our little set-up here in the Miser Mom household.  Having no AC means we spend a lot less money on electricity.  Whoop!  Not using that electricity means that we're not destroying the environment as quickly as we might.  Whoop!  Whoop!  And [here's the kicker . . . ] our "Seal-the-house-by-day-Run-the-fans-at-night" set up usually keeps the house surprisingly comfortable.

That last point is what usually has me so smug.  My friends know of my penny pinching ways, but they're Very-Happy-Thank-You to watch me from afar.  AC might be expensive, but living without AC is unbearable [or so they say].  But then when they actually set foot in my no-AC house, they're surprised.  This is not so bad! they say, In fact, it's surprisingly cool! 

And Miser Mom smiles her smug little smile.

Except that this year, I don't get to be so smug.  Warm and sticky, yes, but smug, no.  What usually cools our home are the relatively chilly evenings and nights.  That's when we open the windows and run the whole house fan, sucking in the brisk air and cooling down our living spaces.  What usually heats our home is the midday high temperatures -- but that's when we seal up the place and cover all windows, so we minimize the damage done.  And so we can usually keep the house about 10-15 degrees cooler than that midday high temperature that so overwhelms everyone around us.

Alas, June has seen a run of humid, thunder-storm-filled days and nights, with highs in the mid to upper 80s and overnight lows in the mid 70s.  And so our thermostat looks like this.

Yes, it's 79 degrees in the home, even at 5 p.m.  The humidity has us on mold alert.

We're still saving money compared to our AC-using friends; we're still being more green than the humming houses about us.  I'm not going to declare this as some kind of a failed experiment, mind you, because there's a big part of me that doesn't mind being warm and sticky if it means I get to be just a little tougher than those wimpy cold-air-addicts I see all around me.  It's just that I don't get to go around gloating.  Instead, my home is just the way you'd imagine a no-AC home would feel like.  Ugh.

We have some potential relief on the horizon later this week.
(It's the low temp that matters most to us, not the high temp).   Here's hoping that those low-60's nights help to bring the house temperatures down before the inevitable August onslaught begins!


  1. I'm warring with installing the AC unit in my apartment right now (I own it, I'd just have to pay for installation). I was confident in my ability to deal without it, but even with fans and shutting up the apartment, I haven't been sleeping enough and that's starting to affect the rest of my life. We're cooling off again too, but I know this hot spell isn't the worst we'll have this summer. At least a big benefit of university housing is that electricity is included in my rent, but that doesn't take away the environmental impact.

    Also, do you find that your house smells when you shut it up for the day? When I shut our apartment up, I come back to some stink when I get home in the evening.

    1. AC does two helpful things: it cools the place, but it also takes moisture out of the air. So an intermediate step might be to get a dehumidifier; that'd probably help with the smell. We used to have a dehumidifier, in fact, but we loaned it to a friend and haven't gotten it back.

      We don't have the smell problem because our house is so large there's a lot of internal air flow -- or rather, I should say that I don't THINK we have the smell problem. Owning a dog means that I've probably learned to ignore stinks that would be immediately obvious to non-pet owners! -MM

  2. Oh wow. we keep our AC on to get it to 79 during the day (75 at night). and I don't even live down south anymore.

    1. I've been there; that's the way my home was when I moved into it (we had two really old window AC units back then). It was when I was reading books on passive solar heating that I realized the real help to us would be the opposite -- passive solar cooling. Covering up all the windows during the day makes a huge huge difference (really huge). The other big change we made to our house -- one that was much more expensive -- was insulating and sealing the house.

      Doing those two things (covering windows during the day and insulating) means our home is cooler now than when we had those two decrepit window AC. But I do miss the dehumidification! -MM

  3. AC is part of the reason that I make money.

    We have it set on 81 degrees. We also have extensive fans.

    We have lived more temperate places without AC and it's been fine. But not here. We're lucky if it gets into the 70s at night.

    1. Ha, I hear you! When I'm in the car in the summer, I keep the AC on just to keep the air dry, but I do keep the temp up in the high-70/low-80 range.

      If I lived in a place as warm as you, I think I'd do AC also. Here, I live without it because I can. And it's bearable (even comfortable-ish) for all but a week or two each year, with extra fun warmth this year. - MM

  4. We don't do AC, and our neighbors all think we're crazy. I don't even seal up the house during the day. It does get warm, but I think that's okay. We like to go outside and enjoy nature, and I always felt like AC made me less inclined to do so. I do have copious fans running right on me, even during the day, and that helps a lot.

    We are moving into a new apartment with different air flow, and we'll see how I feel about no AC in a place without cross-current windows in the same room. I want to still be anti-AC; I might just have to change my behavior patterns.

    1. Speaking of behavior patterns, I find that there's a weird encouragement to obey certain natural laws in a hot house. That is, if I'm sitting perfectly still (reading, or -- even better -- doing math), then I don't notice the temps and I'm comfortable. Once I start moving around, I get warm . . . but that just makes me want to go outside and run/bike/etc. So in an odd way, this is an inducement EITHER to exercise, OR to totally concentrate. And it's a discouragement from puttering. --MM