I mentioned in a previous post that we don’t use air conditioning. Some people were amazed because we live in the San Antonio area. South Texas is not known for its mild summers. The weather here is hot and humid. Yes, Houston and south Florida are worse. So are some parts of the Congo. And I’m sure it was worse in your neck of the woods that one year back when you were 14.
I used to look with awe at friends who did without a/c. I used to think I could never do it. But what would I have done if I were born 100 years ago, or even 50? Died? Revolted, and run the streets in the nude? I like to think I could have coped.
We ditched the window units last year in an effort to cut costs. They really weren’t efficient or terribly effective anyway. Yes, they kept the inside cooler than the outside, but didn’t keep it really comfortable. They were also very noisy, and a hassle to run – always freezing up, and the filters needed very frequent cleaning since they ran 24/7. They also didn’t last long – we were replacing them nearly every year.
So we made the plunge. We took them out, bought a few more box fans, and opened up the house.
Last year was a doozy of a year. We had record highs. Daytime temps stayed over 100 for an eternity, and my memory tells me that nighttime lows were hardly better. It was a long, hot summer.
But we acclimated. I won’t say we didn’t mind the heat, but we did adjust. At the beginning of the summer, we complained about temps in the mid 80’s. By the end of the summer, the low 90’s were comfortable. We just dreaded the afternoons that broke the 3 digit mark.
We reminded ourselves and each other that everyone used to live without a/c, and many of them wore far more clothes than we did. Modern Americans are whiners. This was uncomfortable, but not true suffering.
This year has been much milder. I’m not sure we’ve even broken that all-important 3 digit mark yet, though the normal temp hovers in the mid to high 90’s.
Having said all that, here are some of the things we did to minimize our discomfort:
- Wear less clothes. This looks different in different households, but for us this means that when we’re home during the summer we often wear long shorts and a sleeveless top. Last summer we spent much of the time in our swimsuits – modest ones, but lighter and scantier than our normal daily wear.
- Save your shower for midday. My morning shower has migrated toward the midafternoon, a lovely time to rinse off in a cool shower. This probably saves us money since I’m using less hot water.
- Use ice. We drink a lot of ice water. Before we started making our own ice, we were spending $30-50 each month on bagged ice!
- Frozen drinks. Lunch is often a peanut-butter/banana smoothie, made with frozen bananas. I’m also partial to homemade frappuccinos. The kids enjoy a koolaid slushie nearly every afternoon in the summer. Our blender is earning its keep!
- Cool your head. It’s a well known fact that the human body loses much of its heat through the head. We take advantage of this by keeping our hair damp during the hottest part of the day. A cool wet rag on the back of the neck is heavenly as well.
- Cool your heels. The human body also gives off a lot of heat through the feet. We stay barefoot most of the time, and I love to dip my feet in cool water.
- Hurray for kiddie pools. I love having a kiddie pool on the deck! The little ones can swim whenever they want, and we big people can swish our feet and splash our arms and legs. Instant comfort.
- Cook outside or not at all. We rarely use the oven during the summer. We cook with a crockpot, or an electric roaster – OUTSIDE. We grill. We eat salads.
- Use the stovetop sparingly. Did you know that pasta and boiled eggs will finish cooking if you bring to a boil, cover and turn off the heat? No need to keep the burner on for 10 minutes, heating up the house. White rice will cook this way too if you have heavy-duty cookware (I don’t). Experiment.
- Be aware of other heat sources. We turn off lights and computers when not in use. We don’t use an electric dryer. When I had carpet, I refused to run the vacuum during the heat of the day. Even fans generate some heat, so we turn off the ones that aren’t being actively appreciated.
And a bonus tip:
- Find the breeze. Moving air feels cooler. If you don’t have a natural breeze, use fans. If you don’t have a fan, resist the urge to collapse on the couch in a corner of the living room. If the air isn’t moving, move yourself to create a breeze: get up and take a walk across the house. Putter. Check if it’s cooler outside, and find a nice place to sit in the shade. We eat dinner outside nearly every evening because the house takes a bit longer to cool down.
Yes, it’s nice to be in a perfectly controlled climate. I prefer the mid 70’s with low humidity and bright, indirect light. I like to hang out in places with a/c. But contrary to popular opinion, the human race can live without air conditioning.
Sure, we sweat, but once I resigned myself to sweating it just wasn’t that bad. After all, just a generation ago nobody would have dreamed of calling air conditioning a necessity, no matter where they lived. It was a luxury, if it even crossed anyone’s mind.
Wants vs. needs. Isn’t it strange how easily we confuse the two?