Until our energy grid is 100% powered by renewable energy, energy usage will continue to contribute to environmental pollution. Unlike the need to heat our homes in winter, air conditioning in the summer is more of a creature comfort than a survival necessity.
Air conditioning consumes so much energy that it often causes power brownouts; power grids can barely keep pace with this energy hungry device. Air conditioning is helpful in some environments, such as hospitals and nursing homes for the elderly, but for those of us who are healthy, it’s a comfort item. We’re a tropical species after all. Here are some tips for staying cool without air conditioning:
Photo by Sira Hanchana.
Avoid Air Conditioned Spaces Whenever Possible
In warm weather, the body gradually acclimates to the heat. This is why people living in the southeastern United States say that they simply “get used to it” after a while. Heat acclimation happens when the body improves its cardiovascular function and its ability to bring blood close to the surface of the skin, where sweat is produced.
Our skin is similar to the radiator in a car and our blood is similar to a car’s coolant fluid. The blood gets cooled as it flows under the skin. This cooled blood then circulates and cools the internal parts of the body. Walking in mild heat for limited periods of time is a way to build up the body’s natural cooling mechanisms. Remember to stay out of the heat when it is severe.
Photo by barkbud (Flickr).
If you are always in an air conditioned environment, your body sees no need to acclimate to the heat. To some degree, comfort is a psychological thing. You mostly notice the heat and humidity immediately after leaving an air-conditioned building or car. If you’ve gone for most of a day without air conditioning, you kind of feel OK with it until you go shopping in an air conditioned store. After leaving the store, the heat outside suddenly feels unbearable. Air conditioning weakens your tolerance to heat.
Use Window Fans Strategically
Window fans are a less energy-intensive alternative to air conditioning. Many people use their window fans throughout the day. However, whenever the temperature indoors is cooler than outdoors, windows and doors should be closed to shut out the heat, just like we do in the winter to shut out the cold. In addition, blinds on windows facing the sunlit side of the house should remain closed.
Window fans should only be used when it’s warmer inside than outside. This means they should be turned on in the evening hours and left running overnight and turned off during the mid to late morning hours. Having an external and internal thermometer will help in determining when to use your window fans.
Photo by Karl Baron.
Don’t place a fan in every window because they will fight against each other. Half of your windows should have fans while the other windows should simply allow air to be freely drawn in or pushed out. When doing this, allow free flow of air throughout your home by keeping all the doors to the various rooms open.
Keep Your House Well Insulated
This may seem counterintuitive, since many of us associate insulation with staying warm. Insulation works both ways. It can be used to keep warmth in, or it can be used to keep the warmth out. After cooling off your home overnight with window fans, a well insulated home will retain the cool temperatures inside your home for much longer. In addition to the use of window fans, ceiling fans inside your home also help.
Even when using this system of window fans and insulation, at some point during the late afternoon hours, the temps in your home will reach the temps outside. However, for most of the day, you will be kept cool. This is an improvement over feeling uncomfortable for the entire day.
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Posted by Mark Contorno.