Surviving Without Air Conditioning - Carolina Country

Surviving Without Air Conditioning

Inexpensive ways to stay cool without AC

By Hannah McKenzie

Surviving Without Air Conditioning

Q: We’re headed to visit family late this summer and worried about surviving without air conditioning. I realize we’re spoiled expecting it everywhere we go, and my parents would roll their eyes hearing us complain, but aside from fans, what can we do to make our time indoors more comfortable?

A: Not so long ago, very few homes and buildings in the United States had air conditioning. Today, in other countries where electricity is more expensive and less available, it remains a luxury. Thankfully, there are a variety of inexpensive ways to make the most of your trip.

Set expectations

Planning ahead with your family may help them approach the trip as an adventure rather than a burden. Pack lightweight and breathable clothing, opt for sandals rather than sneakers, and plan for water play with a basic sprinkler or hose and bathing suits. Ultimately, you’ll remember the adventure more than all the sweat.

Strategically place fans

Fans can be positioned to push or pull air through a space. For example, a fan placed in a window should pull cool nighttime air inside. Often, arrows on a fan will indicate the direction of the airflow.

When buying a fan, always look for the Energy Star® label to ensure that it uses as little energy as possible.

Remember that moving air, like a breeze, makes our bodies feel less hot but does not change the air temperature. This means that ceiling and floor fans cool our bodies, not our rooms. Turn them off when no one is in the space.

Reduce heat sources

Does that little lamp in the guest room use a 60-watt bulb and feel hot enough to roast marshmallows? Consider replacing it with a 10-watt LED, which will emit the same amount of light, generate minimal heat, last a decade instead of a year, and save energy. Oh, and their prices keep dropping — that’s a win!

Perhaps you could bring a box of LEDs as your “Thanks for having us!” gift.

Keep shades and draperies closed to prevent beams of sunlight from heating up the house.

Stay cool in the kitchen

When cooking, no one will be thanking you for roasting chicken and vegetables for supper because the house will be roasting too, so consider heading outside to the grill or a portable cooktop. Most foods that you bake can just as easily be put on the grill. If you must cook inside, opt for smaller appliances, such as the microwave or toaster oven. If boiling anything, be sure to turn on the range hood to pull the steam out of the house rather than having it linger inside.

Cut moisture

Speaking of steam … either don’t generate it or get it out of the house as quickly as possible. Consider running the dishwasher when it won’t heat the house to an ungodly temperature, using minimal dishes, and hand-washing when possible. When showering, use the exhaust fan or a window fan that is positioned to pull the steam out of the bathroom. To reduce shower steam even more, use a water-saving showerhead that has the WaterSense label.

I joke that summertime humidity is a “Carolina hug.” Ninety degrees already feels hot, but pair it with humidity, and it’s almost too much to bear. Embracing the humid hug and focusing on smart choices can go a long way toward making your trip enjoyable for everyone.

About the Author

Hannah McKenzie is a residential building science consultant at Advanced Energy in Raleigh who specializes in working with nonprofit developers like Habitat for Humanity to make new affordable housing energy efficient.

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