Okay. Say what you want about George W. Bush's Energy Plan
, and whether you think conservation
is a civic responsibility
or a personal virtue
; when you look at your electric bill
, you're probably going to want to spend less
. Besides, there's the whole idea of air conditioning
contributing to the eventual heat death of the universe
that makes me want to limit its use where possible.
I suspect many people blindly leave their climate control in their home set to, say, 72 degrees and never open the windows or otherwise adjust their climate. If you're willing to deal with some temperature fluctuations, perhaps it being a bit warmer in the day, and cooler at night, and live in a moderate climate, you could potentially save lots of money on air conditioning--if you live in certain areas, possibly avoid a need for it altogether. Here's how.
The shocking idea is this: Open your windows when it's cool, and close them when it's warm. Most houses will be able to resist the infiltration of outside heat so that it remains comfortable inside with the use of fans to circulate air.
A few caveats:
- You're going to have to be able to tolerate a room temperature of 78-80 degrees during the day, or in general 15 degrees below outside ambient temperature for this to work. If you have health or other reasons that this won't work, then you will need some A/C. The thing is, this may work for all but the hottest months for you anyway.
- It involves taking an active role in your climate control. Lots of running around opening and closing windows.
- You have to like the sensation of a fan blowing on you.
- If you live in a hot and humid climate you'll have limited success. Generally as well, the nighttime temperature has to get below 70 degrees--60 to 65 is best--for your need for air conditioning to be eliminated. Pay attention to the dew point--if it's above 70 you probably will want some supplemental cooling, but that's okay, if you're keeping the thermostat around 76-78 you'll get dehumidification and more comfort.
- If you live in a dry climate, you may want an evaporative cooler, since in your case adding some humidity to the air might be more comfortable.
- You have to walk around the house in seasonally appropriate clothing. In the summer, this is shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, halter tops, sandals, bathing suits, etc.
- You want room darkening blinds, shades, or drapes. Keeping the sun out of the house will keep it cool. It's also best if you have a light-colored roof and house. Also, an attic fan and venting in the attic will help quite a bit no matter what color your house is. Whole-house fans are good at night as well, but during the day they'll just pump hot air in.
- You do want some light from outside though--running light bulbs will heat things up noticeably if you're not using A/C. Consider switching to compact flourescent fixtures which besides being more energy efficient put out much less heat.
- Don't be stupid and do things like bake in the heat of day. Do some outdoor cooking like grilling and whatnot when it's hot.
- A cool shower can work wonders for comfort if it gets really nasty--both to actually cool you and to remove sweat and grime. Keeping body hair shaved can actually make a difference too--I found this out the summer I shaved my legs because I was cycling so much.
- There's nothing like a few cold beers on a porch or deck on a warm summer night. Perhaps you shouldn't even be in the house.
Here's how it works for us: We leave the windows
open at night. In our bedroom
we have a box fan
blowing cool air
in, and over the bed
. Other window fan
s pump cooler air into the house. We find it's best to have the fans blowing in instead of out. Your mileage may vary. When we leave for work
in the morning, we close all the windows
. When we come back in the evening
, we compare interior
temperatures. Once it's slightly cooler
outside (usually around 7 to 9 pm), we open all of the windows and begin blowing cool air back in. In New Jersey
we frequently have days with highs in the 90s
and nights in the low 70s
and can keep the house below 80 degrees
--which may not sound great, but when it's 95 out going into an 80 degree
room with a fan
blowing feels really good
--and you don't tend to get frozen out
like you do when you walk into a 68 degree office building
in the dead of summer.
I've only resorted to the air conditioning a few times, and then, I run it in the early evenings to cool and dehumidify things down for sleeping, and just in the room I'll be in. Usually this is after the utility's peak times which are, say from 2-6 pm. Our electric bills stay pretty much the same year round.
It comes down to the idea that we should live seasonally. Summer is a time for hot days and we should try and enjoy them, instead of wrapping ourselves in climate-controlled cocoons and not experiencing the natural world. And guess what? If more people did this, cities like Houston, Dallas and Atlanta probably wouldn't be so nasty in the summer, since there'd be less pollution and in general less heat, since air conditioning produces more heat than it extracts from the area it's cooling. And I'm not saying we need to give up on air conditioning completely--obviously computers and other systems need it, and I don't mind office buildings and other public spaces being sufficiently cooled. It's just a matter of degrees, pardon the pun, and if you use less A/C at home, you're doing everyone a favor. I hope that people think responsibly about their energy use and figure out ways of using less and being able to adjust themselves to the seasons, instead of unnaturally forcing their living environments into a certain temperature unnecessarily.