Monday, July 16, 2012


The New York Times has a debate forum today on air-conditioning: The six participants run the gamut: from describing A/C as a luxury the world cannot afford, to a eulogy of air-conditioned football stadiums in Arizona.  The contributions that seem most helpful to me are those which describe how the availability of A/C has led to the downgrading of traditional architectural practices and lifeways which allowed our ancestors - not so long ago - to make it through the summer heat.

For what it's worth, there has been only one day so far this summer (July 7th) when we cracked and turned on the A/C. The TED log for that day reveals that our household electric consumption was roughly double that of a regular day!  The air-conditioner is an energy hog, something like 5kW when it is running (this includes the furnace blower).  Some of the tricks we've used to keep ourselves comfortable without A/C are:
  • Whole house fan (installed some years ago), and getting up early in the morning to run it and suck cool air into the house.  Of course it helps to have a cheap thermometer that shows inside and outside temps, so one can decide when this is a losing game.
  • Careful with shades, so as not to let sunlight in (solar gain) on the south side of the house. I'm just talking ordinary drapes and blinds here - we don't have any fancy reflective stuff.
  • Extra roof insulation (R50) installed this year and a solar roof fan.  Really seems to make a difference upstairs.
  • Indoor fans, occasional cold showers, and ice water!
With these tricks we've been comfortable even with outside temperatures in the high 90s.   (Yes, inside temps are in the 80s. We can live with that.)   Are there other tricks we're missing?


PA-IPL said...

I LOVE our whole house fan (house came with it!). We actually gave away the window unit that the house came with because the whole house fan does such a good job AND we have a secret weapon/escape hatch for those stretches of days in which it does not cool off adequately at night: guestroom in the basement. Extra tricks: door to the full bathroom stays SHUT and window OPEN all summer long. I want no extra humidity in the house! Even better -- shower at the gym or the pool. Contrary to the advice above, my mother grew up in Louisiana in the age of the ice box (read: little air conditioning). They hung up damp sheets to cool the air nearby as the water evaporated. Last trick: Spring Creek Park. A wade to the ankles there is as refreshing as a dip in most pools.

Sakib Hasan said...
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