How we save (a lot) on cooling our home

April 14, 2010

The first year we moved down south, we cranked the AC. Mind you, it was August at the time, but the southern heat seemed so oppressive we didn’t even consider other ways of cooling our house. It was actually the familiar winter season that brought us to our senses. In the summer we just needed to do things in reverse. The savings from our power bill and the sense that we were helping the environment, motivated us to find even more ways to naturally cool our home. Considering that we are the only house on the block that hasn’t turned on the AC yet, and I’m wearing a sweater while I write this, I’d say we have a lot to share.

The main secret to our cooling: We open our windows at night. For most of the year the average temperature at night for our area is below 70°F. We have a remote thermometer to tell us when the temperature outside has dropped below the temperature inside. This is when we open the windows (if we need to). Depending on how cool it is outside or how hot we are, we may even put fans in the windows. In the morning when my alarm goes off, I shut the windows and pull the drapes (the earlier, the better). At that point it is cooler in the house than it is outside. For example it was 63 inside this morning.

Throughout the day there are things that raise that temperature. Becoming aware of them made it easier for us to regulate the temperature inside.

  • Cooking: boiling water for coffee or tea, toasting food, using the stovetop, and baking
  • Showering and blow drying hair
  • Laundry: the dryer, or hot water if you use it
  • Dishes: hot water use
  • Sunlight
  • Going in and out
  • Body heat
  • Poor insulation

First thing in the morning I take a shower and I don’t mind heating up the house a bit. As the day wears on, we try to be a little more careful, especially in the summer months. Actually the summer is a whole nother ball game. We go from being mindful, to being purposeful. Some of the rooms in our apartment have ceiling fans. In the summer these should be turning counter-clockwise if you look up at them. There’s usually a little switch at the base that will change their direction. We turn on all our box fans too. The best fan of all is an attic fan. If you have one, turn it on when the temperature outside is cooler than inside and it will draw in the crisp night air. We also keep cold drinks in abundance and eat ice cream in the summer. We eat cooler meals, like salads, sandwiches, and cereal, or use the microwave more often. We batch cook things that go on the stove or in the oven. An unusually cool day is a great day to batch cook and catch up on chores.

Many southerners, meaning well, make the mistake of just leaving their windows open all day. They suffer through the heat until they can’t take it anymore. I think the whole “open at night, close in the morning” thing isn’t common knowledge.

Exceptions:

There are a few days in July and August when it just doesn’t get cool enough at night to cool the house for the day. This is when we decide whether to adjust to the heat or turn on the AC for a few hours. We usually decide to crank it up!

There are also days when it’s so humid that you risk damaging your possessions. We learned this after it rained for a week. Just so you know, it’s humid when your envelopes seal themselves.

We also have allergies. The windows being open can make them worse, and if you haven’t found a good way to treat your allergies, by all means close the windows when they are bad. If you or a family member have bad asthma, it’s also a good idea to keep the windows closed and let your air be filtered through a regularly cleaned AC filter.

I’m not saying air conditioning your home is bad. Please don’t think I’m judging anybody (except for maybe businesses that are so cold I have to bundle up when it’s 100° outside). We will be using our AC at times this year too. When we’re not using it we will still be comfortable. We’ll also save a lot of money and lower our carbon footprint. And we’ll be comfortable! Did I mention that we’ll be comfortable?

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3 Responses to “How we save (a lot) on cooling our home”

  1. defendtucson Says:

    You’d love the challenge of the desert. Tactics deployed include planting trees and waiting 15 years, using vines, tarps to shade the house. Designing your house so that the rooms you use least are on the west side, north/south facing etc. It’s definitely work to keep your house cooler, and there are things you can do both inside, and outside of your house.
    Neighborhoods have recently done lots of mass tree plantings to shade the streets more, it reduces cooling costs significantly for the whole area.

    • Frances Says:

      I love it! I’ve read a lot about desert people being more ecologically minded, especially when it comes to water and landscaping. I just hope having more trees around doesn’t fool people into thinking it’s less of a desert, and therefore in less need of conservation. Does the window open at night/close in the morning thing help there? Have you heard of it before? Sorry for asking, but I feel like somewhere in America this has to be common knowledge!

  2. defendtucson Says:

    yeah window open at night close during the day is practiced out here(at least in my home) only does not work when the lows are in the 90’s, about 30-40 days a year.


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